A question on the Nov. 3 ballot asks if voters want to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey. “Whether or not this year’s ballot question election turns out to be a true blockbuster in terms of funds spent,” it’s already in the top 10 of questions for such spending, said Jeff Brindle, executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Three groups — two supporting and one opposing — have raised a combined $1.3 million and spent $733,523 through Oct. 2. Notably, the bulk of the money has been raised and spent by supporters of the measure. According to ELEC, a political committee called Building Stronger Communities Action Fund Inc. has collected $700,100 and spent $289,000. Its main donor is The Scotts Company of Marysville, Ohio, which gave $700,000. It also gave $100,000 to NJ CAN 2020, a second committee supporting legalization. Scotts reportedly launched a subsidiary in 2014 primarily to sell supplies to marijuana growers. NJ CAN 2020 raised $574,558 and spent $438,603; its chief donor was the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey ($323,446). Opponents of legalization have spent a fraction of that, by comparison: ELEC reports that Don’t Let NJ Go to Pot Inc. raised $9,688 and spent $5,920.
Something to think about if you’re considering spending big to try to sway voters on ballot questions: Of the other top 10 costliest ballot questions, ELEC notes that five passed and four failed. The most expensive of all ($24,669,426) was the 2016 referendum to allow two new casinos in north Jersey. Voters gave a thumbs-down to that proposal.