Kennedy Group Donates Millions To Keep California Marijuana Illegal, Faces Off With Millennials Over Pot

A national anti-marijuana group co-founded by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy has raised millions to defeat pot legalization initiatives in California and across the nation.

The anti-cannabis group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has raised more than $2 million and plans to donate the lion share to defeat California’s Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational pot in the state.

The group joins a growing number of California law enforcement agencies who argue legalizing marijuana would make the state more dangerous, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told the Orange County Register.

“I’m vehemently opposed to it. I think that it would be a terrible move for California to make.”

Law enforcement groups are some of the most influential people opposing California’s marijuana legalization, and their voices haven’t been dimmed by the recent police controversies. They lack the funds to make their voices heard, however, which is where Kennedy’s anti-marijuana group comes in, USC’s Dan Schnur told the Orange County Register.

“Unless the opposition is able to identify a very generous funding source, it’s difficult to see how they get their message out in a way that allows them to move public opinion.”

That’s why Kennedy and Kevin Sabet, a former Obama drug policy advisor, plan to give most of their money to groups in California who oppose marijuana legalization, Sabet told the Los Angeles Times.

“If there is one thing we agree on with legalization advocates, it’s that California is important.”

The anti-marijuana group will also donate funds to groups in Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona who oppose cannabis legalization initiative efforts in their states.

Marijuana legalization advocates and their opponents are both fighting for influence over the millennial generation, which is quickly replacing baby boomers as the most important political group in the country.

Their political influence in California has been growing steadily, and this spring, a voter registration drive on Facebook signed up 200,000 young voters in two days, Rep. Eric Swalwell told Mercury News.

“So I hope young people show up [to vote] because once California legalizes marijuana, I think the rest of the country is going to follow.”

Anti-marijuana advocates like Roger Morgan, who runs the StopPot2016 website, hopes the majority of Californians will side with Kennedy and Golden State law enforcement and reject the legal pot initiative. Morgan has been fighting against the legalization of pot for years, arguing marijuana causes permanent brain damage to cannabis smokers under 25, according to Reason.com.

“Almost all of the mass murders we’ve had in recent years, the person has been a heavy marijuana user because it changes the brain.”

With fewer financial backers, however, the marijuana opposition groups in California may be in for a losing battle. Pot legalization groups have raised some $6.5 million, that’s 40 times more cash than their anti-marijuana opponents who have only raised $159,000.

If approved, California’s Proposition 64 would allow residents older than 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six pot plants; it would also prohibit driving under the influence and possession by minors and public consumption. California voters defeated a similar measure to legalize marijuana in 2010.

Legalizing pot would generate significant tax revenue for California with a 15 percent sales tax, but law enforcement officials aren’t convinced it would be good for the state, Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, told the OC Register.

“We are concerned that this proposition is bad public policy and does nothing to prevent advertising and marketing to children and teenagers near parks, community centers and child-centric businesses.”

What do you think? Should California pass Proposition 64 and legalize marijuana in November?

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]