Miracle-Gro helps NJ marijuana supporters outspend opponents 131 to 1
Nearly $1.3 million in campaign contributions have been raised in connection with the marijuana legalization question on the ballot in New Jersey, nearly all of it by groups advocating for the passage of the constitutional amendment.
The Building Stronger Communities Action Fund has raised $700,100, and the NJ CAN 2020 campaign has raised $574,558, according to initial disclosure reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. The group Don’t Let NJ Go to Pot has raised $9,688 to oppose the question.
“Of course, that doesn’t include $4 million in terms of direct lobbying that took place prior to the introduction of the ballot question,” said ELEC executive director Jeff Brindle. “So, all together in terms of lobbying and efforts in terms of the ballot question itself, a little over $5 million has been spent.”
In all, proponents of legalization have raised more than $131 for every $1 raised by opponents.
While the imbalance may be extreme, Brindle said the general pattern isn’t unusual.
“That’s pretty typical. If we look throughout the country where there have been other similar ballot questions, it’s usually the pro-marijuana groups that are spending the most amount of money,” Brindle said. “And that’s certainly true in New Jersey.”
Scotts Miracle-Gro, which has a cannabis-focused division called Hawthorne Gardening Company, is the primary supporter of the pro-legalization campaign, giving $800,000 between the two committees, mostly to Building Stronger Communities.
“I suppose that’s not really surprising,” Brindle said. “We kind of discovered that recently. And essentially, it’s a business that supplies marijuana growers and provides gardening supplies and tools and so forth, so it has a vested interest in certainly seeing the outcome of this particular ballot question.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has given $250,000 in money and more than $73,000 in in-kind contributions to the NJ CAN 2020 campaign.
The legalization campaign is currently the 10th costliest ballot referendum in New Jersey history, once past ballot question campaigns are adjusted for inflation.
Seventeen previous marijuana initiatives in other states have averaged $8.3 million in combined spending, according to ELEC, which cited the National Institute for Money in Politics. It had been widely expected the New Jersey campaign would be similarly expensive.
“I admit, prior to the pandemic back in March, I think I wrote a couple of columns and so forth on the ballot question, and I thought that it would be very significant in terms of spending by different groups,” Brindle said. “But certainly, the pandemic I think has had an impact on the ballot question as well as overall on elections this particular year.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.