|Photo: Business Week|
|George Soros: “Police could focus on serious crime instead”|
Billionaire financier George Soros on Tuesday donated $1 million to support Proposition 19, the California ballot initiative to legalize, tax and regulate recreational cannabis use.
The cash from Soros, a longtime supporter of marijuana law reform, should allow a much more intense media blitz in the final week before Election Day.
Prop 19, which has had some trouble raising money, had only just rolled out its first television ad in the Los Angeles area on Monday, eight days before the election, reports Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune.
However, with many voters already having cast ballots by mail, the impact of a last-minute ad blitz is hard to quantify.
|Photo: Yes On 19|
|Dale Jones, Yes On 19: “We appreciate just in this last week that people are stepping up their efforts and redoubling their commitment”|
”Once people have read the initiative and understand Prop 19 and see what it will and will not do, we see overwhelming support,” said Dale Jones of Yes On 19. “Every bit that supporters chip in, more people will get the right message.”
Asked if the contribution came too late, Jones responded “Better late than never.”
“We appreciate just in this last week that people are stepping up their efforts and redoubling their commitment,” Jones said.
Soros reported his $1 million contribution to Yes On 19 on Tuesday morning, the same day his op-ed supporting marijuana legalization appeared in the Wall Street Journal, to the California Secretary of State’s office.
“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 the Journal.
“It also would reduce the crime, violence and corruption associated with drug markets, and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest,” Soros wrote. “Police could focus on serious crime instead.”
Soros also pointed to racial disparities in cannabis enforcement. “I agree with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, when she says that being caught up in the criminal justice system does more harm to young people than marijuana itself,” Soros wrote. “Giving millions of young Americans a permanent drug arrest record that may follow them for life serves no one’s interests.”
“The criminalization of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the United States and many other countries,” Soros wrote. “But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences.”
Soros’s contribution was made not to the main Yes On 19 group established by Oakland pot entrepreneur Richard Lee, but to a supporting committee, the Drug Policy Action Committee to Tax and Regulate Marijuana/Yes On Prop 19, established by the Drug Policy Alliance. Soros has been the main funder of DPA, and sits on its board.
The billionaire businessman was one of the most visible proponents of marijuana law reform through the 1990s, and is also the main financier of the Marijuana Policy Project.
He previously invested $3 million in California’s medical marijuana initiative, Prop 215, in 1996, reports Aliyah Shahid of the New York Daily News.