SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Only a few weeks ago, California’s prospects of becoming the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for recreational use couldn’t have seemed much higher.
A Sept. 30 Public Policy Institute of California poll showed the Proposition 19 ballot initiative leading by a 52%-41% margin a week after a Field Poll showed the measure up by seven points.
Now, with recent polls showing Proposition 19 rapidly losing support, billionaire fund manager, philanthropist and marijuana legalization advocate George Soros is coming to the rescue and donating $1 million for the closing campaign to pass the initiative.
“Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good,” Soros wrote in an opinion piece, “Why I Support Legal Marijuana,” that was published in Tuesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. His column and cash come after blistering attacks on Proposition 19 by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former national directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Although Holder said the federal government will “vigorously enforce” marijuana laws in California if Proposition 19 passes, current and former authorities argued that the mere act of paying taxes on retail pot sales permitted under the initiative would constitute admission of a federal crime.
But the Yes on 19 campaign began airing its first TV ad Monday. The spot, featuring former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara, declares that “the war on marijuana has failed” that that Proposition 19 “will generate billions in tax revenues” and “put drug cartels out of business.”
Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Soro’s contribution to an independent committee supporting Proposition 19 will pay for increased airings of the McNamara ad and get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of the initiative.
“We’ve always said is going to be a close election,” Gutwillig said. “This infusion of resources will help us make sure that reform-minded voters get to the polls on Tuesday.”
Colin A. Daniels