Pro-pot campaign draws big bucks from Outside

Posted: Wednesday, October 11, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The four Alaska campaigns working to legalize marijuana have taken in contributions of more than $160,000.

That includes donations of about $27,000 from one Arizona woman, according to campaign disclosure reports the groups filed this week.

''My goodness,'' said legalization opponent Patrice O'Connell when informed of that total by the Anchorage Daily News.

O'Connell is treasurer of No on 5, the only registered campaign fighting Proposition 5. Her group has taken in just $2,758 so far.

Proposition 5, which Alaskans will see on the ballot in November, would eliminate state penalties for adults who grow marijuana, distribute it or use it in private places.

It also would grant amnesty to people already convicted of state marijuana crimes, and it would convene a panel to consider restitution for them.

Free Hemp in Alaska raised more money than any other Prop. 5 group, or about $70,000. Most of that, or some $49,000, came in 6,853 donations of less than $100.

Campaigns aren't required to reveal the names of two-figure contributors.

Free Hemp chairman Al Anders said his group has been raising money by selling T-shirts and bumper stickers and through ''instant karma'' donation jars at its events.

Campaign workers stood at traffic intersections last week selling stickers and collecting cash in five-gallon buckets, he said.

About $20,000 of the large contributions to Free Hemp are from Outside.

John Gilmore of San Francisco gave $10,000. Anders said he hit up Gilmore at the Libertarian Party's national convention last summer at Anaheim, Calif.

Robert E. Field of Pennsylvania, who Anders described as a legalization activist, gave $5,000.

''That was manna from heaven,'' Anders said.

Former U.S. Attorney Wev Shea, who has been working with the group No on 5, said the out-of-state contributions are revealing.

''This movement is from outside Alaska, and it's part of a nationwide movement to liberalize all drug laws,'' Shea said.

Hemp 2000, an Alaska campaign that emphasizes the industrial possibilities of the nonintoxicating form of cannabis, received much of its money from a Bisbee, Ariz., woman named Patricia Steward.

Steward contributed $18,000 to Hemp 2000, and also paid about $6,000 in legal expenses on behalf of the campaign.

Campaign disclosure reports to the Alaska Public Offices Commission list her occupation as art dealer, entrepreneur and self-employed.

''She calls herself the Duchess of Hemp,'' said Anders, whose Free Hemp group received $2,000 from her.

Neither Steward nor Hemp 2000 chairwoman Ronda Marcy returned phone messages Tuesday.

O'Connell, the treasurer for No on Hemp, said her campaign was just getting started.

A few corporations have pledged checks but they haven't come in yet, she said.

Shea, who has been spreading the group's message through radio debates, said he's worried Prop. 5 would turn the state into a drug haven.

''Alaska is going to be looked on as a place where you can get a Permanent Fund dividend check of almost $2,000 and you can sit around and smoke dope,'' Shea said.

Anders said Prop. 5 is about ending the war on marijuana, which he contends puts harmless people behind bars.

The campaign money for legalization won't buy victory, but it is an indication of the issue's popular support, he said.

''The drug war is not going to die an easy death, but we're going to win, and we're going to win because we've got grassroots support,'' he said -- no pun intended.

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