Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Author: Tataboline Brant
Published: October 30, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Anchorage Daily News
Contact: [email protected]
Issue: Push to legalize pot becomes costliest ballot effort in recent years.
The main group pressing to legalize marijuana in Alaska has taken in $857,000, making its effort the most expensive ballot issue campaign in Alaska since at least 1997, according to new campaign finance reports.
Alaskans For Marijuana Regulation and Control has already spent about $831,000 on polls, canvassing, staff services, mailers and print and broadcast advertisements pushing Ballot Measure 2, which will appear on Tuesday's ballot and aims to legalize pot for adults 21 and older.
Almost all of the group's money comes from the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. The organization is also funding legalization efforts in other states this year including Nevada, Montana and Oregon.
David Finkelstein, a former legislator and treasurer for AMRC, said his group's focus through Tuesday will be to get supporters to the polls. "You get near the end and it's really about turning out your voters," he said.
Three recent polls show Ballot Measure 2 failing by anywhere from 9 to 29 percentage points.
The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce came out against the initiative Thursday, joining the Alaska State Medical Association, city, state and federal law enforcement officials and Gov. Frank Murkowski and his wife in opposing legalization.
Backers of Ballot Measure 2, meanwhile, on Friday released a list of 54 Alaska doctors, nurses, lawyers and professors who support legalization.
Yes On 2 spokesman Bill Parker, a former deputy commissioner of corrections for the state, said in a written statement that Alaska is wasting millions of dollars arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning adults for marijuana use.
"It should come as no surprise that doctors, nurses, lawyers and professors are saying: We can do better," his statement said.
Four main groups are leading the push for legalization. An accurate picture of how much they have spent combined is difficult to determine because the groups contribute to each other's campaigns, and adding their bottom lines together would likely result in some amounts being counted more than once.
Alaska Hemp, which did most of the legwork to get legalization on the ballot, raised about $111,000 so far this election, with about half of that coming from hundreds of Alaskans, according to its campaign disclosure reports.
The group has for the most part wrapped up its fund-raising, said its treasurer, Tim Hinterberger, an associate professor of biomedicine at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Hinterberger is also the treasurer for Alaskans For Rights and Revenues, which reported $1,655 in contributions as of early October. The group has filed its seven-day report with the state, but it was not available as of Friday night.
Hinterberger said the group got $30,000 from a Texas-based organization called the Foundation for Constitutional Protection and $1,000 from an individual in Pennsylvania. Most of the money is being spent on print advertising and supplies, he said.
Yes On 2, another pro-pot group, reports a total income so far this election of $27,211, according to its APOC report.
The sole opposition group, Alaskans Against the Legalization of Marijuana/Hemp, started out with about $10,000 in its coffers -- a carryover from its efforts to defeat a legalization measure in 2000 -- and has since raised about $18,000 more, with the largest chunk, $8,000, coming from the Alaska State Medical Association, its APOC report shows.
Matthew Fagnani, chairman of the group and president of the local drug-testing firm WorkSafe Inc., said his group has spent about $10,000 on radio ads and plans to focus on print advertising now.
"I think that regardless of the amount of money the pro side can collect from Outside activists, Alaskans are not going to be duped by this initiative," Fagnani said.
Finkelstein said supporters of Ballot Measure 2 aren't just up against Fagnani's group when it comes to spending. He said federal officials have taken a stand against legalization, and their contributions aren't reported anywhere.
He added that Alaskans For Drug Free Youth, a Ketchikan group, recently distributed in communities across Alaska a newsletter, "Marijuana Times," that had numerous articles in it about the dangers of pot and a history of marijuana policy in Alaska.
The newsletter didn't say anything about Ballot Measure 2, Finkelstein said, but its message hit strongly on what it claimed were the damaging health effects of marijuana.
"There's a lot of spending that goes unreported," he said.
Lynda Adams, treasurer of the Ketchikan-based group, said about 4,000 copies of Marijuana Times were distributed in Alaska in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week, which runs Oct. 23-30.
She said that Alaskans For Drug Free Youth has not taken a stand on Ballot Measure 2 and that the newsletter was "strictly an educational piece."
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