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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sean Parker Doubles Down On Marijuana Legalization; Still Won't Say Why

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 7:00 AM


Sean Parker has doubled his investment in marijuana legalization. Following an initial $500,000 investment earlier in the year, the former Facebook president — who, in his mid-30s, is settling into a new lifestyle as a billionaire philanthropist and angel investor for political causes — donated another $500,000 towards the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, according to campaign finance records. 

Parker has now donated $1 million towards the AUMA, which, if approved by voters, would legalize small amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and up in California. The ballot measure is attempting to collect sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot — and it looks like it has the money to do that. 

AUMA now has $2.25 million in its campaign war chest, according to records — with additional donations coming from WeedMaps, the "Google Maps of pot," ($500,000 total), the Drug Policy Alliance ($500,000), and a political action committee funded by the heirs of late Progressive Auto Insurance chairman Peter Lewis ($250,000). 

But Parker is by far the biggest donor to the effort, so much so that the AUMA is also known as the "Parker Initiative." Which is odd, considering Parker has thus far said very little about why he's involved — and, according to one of the organizers behind Oregon's Measure 91, which legalized adult use cannabis in that state in 2014, he ought to, soon.

The AUMA now has more money than the last effort to legalize marijuana in California, 2010's Proposition 19 — and it has that money much earlier.

In 2010, the biggest single donor to Prop. 19 was billionaire George Soros, who wrote a $1 million check just weeks before the election; the official campaign, funded almost entirely by Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee, spent $1.9 million throughout the entire campaign.

Compare that to Measure 91 in Oregon, which had nearly $7 million to spend — or about $5 per vote, compared to the 40 cents per vote that Prop. 19 had handy.

In other words, Parker is making it happen. But he is doing so quietly, without issuing a public statement explaining his involvement. 

Jason Kinney, a Sacramento political strategist who has served as spokesman for the AUMA campaign, did not respond to emails seeking comment from SF Weekly.

Parker will likely say something soon — and he should do so sooner rather than later, says Anthony Johnson, the  chief petitioner of Measure 91.
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"When you don't, the conspiracists run rampant," Johnson said Saturday at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. 

The AUMA has been met with distrust and fear by some California marijuana industry figures, including legalization advocates, who say that the AUMA — which limits personal cultivation at six plants and limits personal possession at one ounce (though holders of medical marijuana recommendations could grow and possess much more) does not go far enough.

In Oregon, under Measure 91, an individual caught with 77 pounds of pot was let off with a misdemeanor, says Johnson, who noted that there are now 150 recreational cannabis shops in Portland, Oregon (which remains a nice place to live.)

Johnson says if he were a California voter, he'd support AUMA.

"If you like things the way they are, change is always scary," he said. "But if it's better than prohibition, you should support it."
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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