Updated with comment from Marijuana Policy Project:
Who needs a billionaire? Monday's 2010 initiative kickoff to get the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act
(OCTA) on the 2010 ballot (see yesterday's WWire post
) underscores questions regarding the marijuana-legalization initiative's big backers. Now that OCTA's petition push has been unveiled, organizers are looking for funding to fight anti-pot advertising and pay initiative activists.
Russ Belville, of Oregon's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
(NORML), which is backing OCTA, says, “Volunteers are currently paying out of their own pockets and losing money. OCTA's press conference was paid for by the volunteers there.” Belville says OCTA is likely to remain grassroots-led, with support coming from local donations.
Paul Stanford, one of the initiative's chief petitioners and founder of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation
, agrees that most of the support has come from the activists themselves: “We have raised $1,500 so far, and the biggest provider so far has been me, $300!” Yet he sees future dollars and cents coming from donors much higher up on the pot-friendly chain. According to Stanford, plans are in the works to contact fat-walleted potential donors this summer like billionaires Peter Lewis
and George Soros
Lewis, the billionaire chairman of Progressive Insurance Companies, finances the Marijuana Policy Project
(MPP), which in 2006 completely financed two failed marijuana initiatives in Nevada
. Lewis gifts
$4.5 million each year to MPP, whose director, Rob Kampia, turns around and grants out
one-third of this money to other national marijuana policy programs. Stanford hopes OCTA will get some of that pot-policy action and says he has already has begun talking with Rob Kampia.
Billionaire stock investor Soros (pictured above), funder of progressive causes and current chairman of Soros Fund Management, has bestowed his pot dealings on the director of Drug Policy Alliance Network
, Ethan Nadelmann. Though Stanford has not yet contacted Nadelmann, he says OCTA reps plan on going to Seattle's Hempfest in August, where those two moneybags' reps will be.
Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Bruce Mirken says it's too early to say whether his group will support the Oregon initiative. "We are looking at it and doing an analysis," Mirken says. "Until we have done that, I probably shouldn't shoot my mouth off. We'll certainly put our 2 cents' worth in, once we decide what that is."