A $2.8 million TV advertising blitz in October by the campaign to legalize marijuana appears to have given Initiative 502 a critical boost just as ballots are being cast. There are no marijuana leaves – or even admitted marijuana users — in the ads, reflecting I-502’s strategy to attack the ban on marijuana while not endorsing its use. The TV spots are made more potent by a lack of opposition ads, raising questions about the consequences and costs should Washington become one of the first states to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
The KCTS 9 Washington Poll, conducted by University of Washington political scientists and released Thursday, found support for I-502 solidifying since its Oct. 18 poll. Support among likely voters rose from 47 percent to 55 percent and opposition dropped from 40 percent to 38 percent, with the number of undecided voters shrinking. Another poll, commissioned by KING 5, reported nearly identical results: 55 to 37 in favor, with 7 percent undecided.
The University of Washington’s Matt Barreto said he was surprised by the swing in support, which he attributes to the “very strong and effective” ad campaign. “I thought this might tighten up more, because it’s such a radical change,” he said. Since the August primary, I-502 has aired three TV ads across the state featuring former federal law-enforcement officials and a Seattle mother reading from a similar script. It emphasizes “tight regulatory control” for a legalized marijuana market and potential tax revenue. The state has estimated revenue at up to $1.9 billion over five years.
The ads were funded in part by more than $2 million in donations from Peter B. Lewis, the Ohio-based chairman of Progressive Insurance and a legalization advocate. Overall, I-502 has raised more than $6 million. The only organized opposition, a group of medical-marijuana activists, has raised $6,800. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and substance-abuse-treatment providers are also opposed, but have not raised money.
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