Marijuana Industry Spreading Its Colorado Campaign Contributions on Both Sides of the Aisle

By Goodland, Marianne | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), June 18, 2018 | Go to article overview

Marijuana Industry Spreading Its Colorado Campaign Contributions on Both Sides of the Aisle


Goodland, Marianne, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


Although the marijuana industry is more likely to pump big money into ballot initiatives, their dollars are also showing up on the balance sheets of political campaigns in Colorado, a sign of the industry's growing role in public affairs.

Donors range from dispensary owners, especially of large chains, to the law firms that handle their business.

A review of contributions culled from campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's TRACER system shows that about $198,000 over the last five-and-a-half years has made its way into the campaign coffers of candidates for statewide offices as well as to political party coffers. And the money is growing.

Pot industry a growing political force at the Colorado Capitol

Contributions from the still nascent industry are peanuts, however, when compared to those made by long-established players like unions or oil and gas.

Between 2015 and 2018, the Colorado Education Association's public education committee donated $190,000 to candidates for the House and Senate and to the state Democratic Party. In that same time period, Anadarko Petroleum contributed $210,000 to House and Senate candidates and the Senate Majority Fund, which works to elect Republicans to the state Senate.

By comparison, in the campaign cycle ending with the 2014 election, the marijuana industry pumped about $38,000 into the bank accounts of political candidates and parties. The 2016 election cycle saw total donations of more than $92,000.

With a general election yet to come in 2018, industry donations have so far totaled about $64,000, but that's just through mid-May with more than four more months of fundraising to come.

State law limits contributions made by businesses and individuals to $400 per election cycle for state House and Senate candidates and $1,150 for statewide offices such as governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state.

So who does the industry prefer for governor in this month's primary?

That would be Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. While Polis has capped contributions at $100, the total from the industry is at $2,125 from about 30 contributors.

Former state treasurer and Democrat Cary Kennedy got roughly the same - $2,100 total - but from just a handful of industry donors.

Where the General Assembly is concerned, the industry has played it well at being bipartisan.

The Senate Majority Fund, which works to elect Republicans to the state Senate, has taken in $29,500 in the past three years from the industry and its leaders. The Colorado Democratic Party has done about the same, with more than $28,000 during the past four years.

The man and company making the biggest splash among marijuana campaign contributors is John Lord, owner of Beyond Broadway, also known as LivWell. Lord and his company have put in more than $180,000 in the past four years, including donations to Democratic and Republican candidates and lawmakers, political parties, and a couple of so-called dark money groups that mostly run attack ads during the general election. But most of Lord's contributions, $135,000, were put into ballot campaigns.

The industry names checked against the secretary of state's TRACER campaign finance database include the owners of the company formerly known as The Green Solution, as well as dispensaries such as Terrapin Care Station, Julie's Naturals, Strawberry Fields, Pig N'Whistle and Rocky Mountain Remedies. Contributions from two cannabis law firms and their partners - Vicente Sederberg and Hoban Law (aka the National Cannabis Law Firm) - also are included.

The next biggest campaign donors have been the owners of Good Chemistry, also known as Sweetwater Partners, with about $25,000 contributed over the past five years.

Industry associations - the Cannabis Business Alliance, Marijuana Industry Group and the Colorado Cannabis Chamber - have contributed just under $29,000 to candidates and political parties in the past four years. …

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