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Cash Flowing to End Pot Prohibition

George Soros
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George Soros
A $1 million contribution from billionaire George Soros helps final push for passing Prop. 19

A week before the election, the marijuana legalization measure is attracting more contributions, including a $1 million donation from hedge fund bilionaire George Soros, pumping up the campaign for its passage.

Television advertisements urging voters to pass Proposition 19 will run up to the election, now that supporters have raised 17 times as much money as opponents.

If Prop. 19 is passed with more than 50 percent of votes, possession and cultivation of marijuana will become legal in California for adults over 21 years of age. Federal prohibition on the pot would not be directly affected.

Recent polling indicates that next week’s vote will be a close call, with 'no' votes slighly outpolling 'yes' votes.

Soros recently donated $1 million to the Drug Policy Action Committee to Tax and Regulate Marijuana, Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann said Tuesday.

"Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually," Soros wrote in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal opinion pages.

Nadelmann said some of the money will be used to help buy television advertising on behalf of a partner committee, the Yes on 19 committee, which this week began running an ad featuring former San Jose Chief of Police Joseph D. McNamara.

The advertisement is currently running in Los Angeles and the Central Valley, Yes on 19 spokesman Tom Angell said.

“We have the people on our side,” Angell said. “Hundreds of committed volunteers are spending their free time phone-banking.”

Soros' donation boosts total fundraising by three committees working to pass Prop. 19 to roughly $3.8 million, campaign finance figures show. In addition to Soros, the money has come from Oakland-based pot entrepeneur Richard Lee and a steady trickle of donations as small as $4.20 or less from more than 1,500 people, including many lawyers.

Opponents of the proposition have raised roughly $225,000, mostly from associations representing police, corrections officers and prosecutors, campaign finance figures show.

“We always knew that we would be outspent by the ‘yes’ side,” said Tim Rosales, spokesperson for Public Safety First –the  No on Prop. 19 committee. “We’ve always anticipated it [the $1 million Soros donation] would be coming in.”

Rosales said advertising spending by the Yes on 19 campaign will help lead to the proposition’s downfall.

“We believe that the more people find out about Prop. 19 and investigate the details of it, the more likely they are to turn away from it and oppose it,” Rosales said.

The No on Prop. 19 campaign is using its funds to run radio advertisements in Northern California, according to Rosales. He said the California Chamber of Commerce is running radio ads opposing Prop. 19 in Southern California.

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