One pro-marijuana legalization group has raised over $2.4 million in 2016 alone, while the largest opposing campaign has raised less than $400,000, according to state financial reports filed Friday.
The pro-legalization group, YES on 4, began in the summer of 2015, and by that fall had a ballot initiative with 105,000 signatures. The group’s main purpose is “to establish a system for regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use in Massachusetts,” according to its website.
The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act will appear as ballot question No. 4 on Massachusetts’ November ballot.
Many of YES on 4’s donations have come from individual supporters of marijuana legalization, including some out-of-state supporters. However, the largest contribution came from a Washington, D.C. based organization, according to YES on 4 spokesperson Jim Borghesani.
“The majority of our money came from a foundation called New Approach,” Borghesani said.
The New Approach PAC contributed over $2.1 million to YES on 4, according to the campaign finance receipts.
The organization, founded in 2014 as a nonprofit, supports pro-marijuana reform laws across the country, contributing to Oregon’s legalization law and California’s upcoming legalization election.
The largest opposition group, the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, has raised significantly less money than its counterpart, according to the finance reports.
On the campaign’s website, the main screen features text reading, “Wrong for kids. Wrong for Massachusetts. Oppose the creation of a billion dollar marijuana industry.”
The campaign lists supporters of the campaign, including Massachusetts lawmakers Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
Although YES on 4 has raised over $2.4 million up to date, Borghesani said the coalition have yet to reach its fundraising goal, and they have until October to do so.
“Our goal is to raise $3 million, and we really have to do that by the end of October or the middle of October, because anything raised after that doesn’t do much good in the campaign,” Borghesani said.
While the campaigning has not started in earnest yet, Borghesani said the majority of the money will go toward paying for media expenditures such as television advertisements.
Boston residents had varying views in regard to the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts.
Joshua Vanderhoof, 24, of Allston, said although he’s never smoked, he thinks the sale of marijuana should be legal.
“We have alcohol legalized, that was illegal back in the day during the prohibition times, and marijuana has less dangerous effects than alcohol that we know of, so I don’t see why it can’t be legal,” he said.
Theresa Suber, 41, of Dorchester, does not support pro-legalization groups, saying the legalization of marijuana would have negative effects on the Commonwealth.
“I think if they legalize marijuana the city would get worse,” Suber said. “The crime would be worse.”
Douglas Benton, 44, of Dorchester, said marijuana legalization comes back around and results in positive effects for the government.
“It could really save the economy if they just found a way to actually use it properly and get legal money out of it,” Benton said. “It’s not really a harmful drug, and it has medicinal uses.”