NJ legal marijuana advocates beats rivals in fundraising

MIKE CATALINI
·2-min read
FILE - In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. New Jersey's ballot question on legalizing recreational marijuana has led to more than $2 million in fund raising by interest groups, the state Election Law Enforcement Commission said Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
FILE - In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. New Jersey's ballot question on legalizing recreational marijuana has led to more than $2 million in fund raising by interest groups, the state Election Law Enforcement Commission said Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's ballot question on legalizing recreational marijuana has led to more than $2 million in campaign fundraising, mostly by groups in favor of cannabis, the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission said Thursday.

The campaign already ranks in the top 10 costliest ballot questions in state history, according to the commission.

By far, most of the fundraising is benefitting groups that support legalization. The two groups that have raised the most are NJ Can 2020 and Building Stronger Communities Action Fund.

NJ Can 2020 is a social welfare group consisting of a coalition of organizations, including the ACLU of New Jersey, the Latino Action Network, Drug Police Action and the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association among others.

The action fund's main donor is the Scotts Company, which makes Miracle-Gro.

All but some $10,000 has been raised by groups that support legalization, according to the commission.

New Jersey would become the 12th state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize recreational marijuana, if the question succeeds.

Supporters are optimistic, pointing to polls showing more than three-fifths of voters support legalization. Opponents are nonetheless holding out hope that they can persuade voters against adopting the change.

Both sides have launched campaigns.

Nearly 3 million ballots have already been received by county offices across the state ahead of Election Day because of the state's first-ever nearly all mail election. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the mail-in election because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Legalizing marijuana was a prominent campaign promise of Murphy’s and was one of the biggest looming issues before New Jersey became a hotspot of the coronavirus outbreak that struck the state in March.

If the measure is approved, the state’s medical marijuana commission would be in charge of setting up a recreational-use market. Along with an age restriction, cannabis would be subject to the state’s 6.625% sales tax.

The amendment also authorizes the Legislature to enact a law letting towns and cities collect a tax on cannabis.

It’s unclear, though, how soon after the amendment passes that marijuana could hit the market. Lawmakers are wrestling with whether to enact legislation before the public weighs in in order to speed up when the market can open.