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Marijuana Businesses to Play Big Money Role in CA ’16 Legalization Efforts

Marijuana locator app Weedmaps.com made a pair of million-dollar contributions on Friday to organizations working on legalization measures in California, an early sign that the cannabis industry will look to bolster its political clout ahead of the 2016 election.

WeedMaps, an application that allows users to find a nearby marijuana dispensary and view its menus, contributed $1 million each to campaign committee Californians for Sensible Reform, an outfit working on a legalization measure for the 2016 ballot, and the Californians for Sensible Reform PAC, a political action committee supportive of marijuana-friendly candidates.

The big donations represent the first serious cash infusion into marijuana legalization efforts in California ahead of the 2016 election.

Troy Dayton, CEO of San Francisco-based marijuana investment firm ArcView Group, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the contribution is “the largest investment by a single business that I know of.”

“It is yet another sign that the industry is maturing,” Dayton told the paper, noting that most politically-involved marijuana businesses contribute far less money, between $100,000 to $200,000.

Pro-legalization outfits began gearing up for a new ballot measure shortly after the failure of 2010’s Proposition 19. Organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance began fundraising for the 2016 fight late last year.

The organizations believe they have their best shot yet at achieving their goals this time around. In March, a poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California revealed that 55 percent of the state’s likely voters favor legalization of marijuana for recreational use, an all-time high.

WeedMaps founder Justin Hartfield told the Chronicle that California is “falling behind” other states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska that have already passed successful ballot measures.

“We’re doing it because legal adult use of marijuana is inevitable,” Hartfield told the paper. “We wanted to do it to make a statement that we’re serious about this.”

WeedMaps’ move could compel other multi-million dollar marijuana businesses to make hefty political contributions of their own. Several pot-related businesses recently attracted millions in venture capital investments, including Privateer Holdings, a legal marijuana “conglomerate” and founder of the Marley Natural brand of cannabis, which closed a $75 million Series B fundraising round this month. With plenty of cash on hand and a vested interest in legalization, marijuana-related businesses are prepared for the flood of 2016 ballot measures currently being written.

The legal marijuana industry was valued at $2.7 billion in 2014, up 74 percent from $1.5 billion in 2013, according to the ArcLight Group. The organization predicts that by 2015, marijuana will be the fastest-growing industry in America.

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