By Guy Page
Thirty-one candidates and several political organizations received political contributions from the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization organization based in Washington, D.C., during the 2016 general election.
The donations totaled $15,750, according to a compiling of several Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) entries on the Vermont Secretary of State Campaign Finance page. During the 2018 session of the Vermont Legislature legalized recreational marijuana, virtually all of the recipients of MPP donations voted in support.
The MPP – whose slogan “We Change Laws” is listed below its name on its website – had gross receipts of $4.7 million in 2016, according to its IRS tax return. According to the Secretary of State’s Vermont lobbyist handbook, Its Vermont lobbyists include Matt Simon, who is listed as a West Virginia resident, and Adam Necrason, David Mickenberg, Jessica Oski, Rebecca Ramos, and Somer Brown of the Necrason Group.
A list of the 31 candidates – most of whom were elected in November, 2016 and served in the 2018 session – can be seen at the online Google spreadsheet prepared by State House Headliners: 2016 Vermont Election Donations by Marijuana Policy Project, Washington D.C. They include gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter, and several House and Senate committee and party leaders, including Democrat Rep. Sara Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford, Democrat Sen. Richard Sears of Bennington County, Progressive/Democrat Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe of Chittenden County, and Republican Joe Benning of Caledonia County.
The largest donation went to Minter ($4,000). Several key senators received $500 donations, other senators received $250, and most representatives received $250 or $200. Rep. Copeland-Hanzas received $500, the most for any House member.
In the Vermont Legislature, political contributions are not considered likely to change a “no” vote to a “yes” or vice-versa. But they are considered a fairly reliable predictor about how a candidate is likely to vote. Lobby groups like the MPP generally contribute to known supporters of their legislative agendas.
MPP donations for 2018 election will be listed in upcoming issues of State House Headliners – as will donations made by several other pro-legalization organizations.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.