Chart of the Week: Many marijuana businesses unsure if they’ll donate to 2016 legalization efforts

By Eli McVey

Some marijuana businesses are ramping up donations to legalization efforts ahead of what promises to be a historic election for the industry, but many are still weighing whether to contribute and could end up staying on the sidelines financially.

With just three months to go until Election Day, more than a quarter of industry executives who took an online poll by Marijuana Business Daily said their companies have already pumped money into state-level legalization campaigns or national groups spearheading ballot measures this year.

The average donation hovers around $10,000 for plant-touching and ancillary businesses, and around $13,000 for cannabis industry investors, according to the poll of more than 400 presidents, founders and C-level executives in the marijuana sector.

Another 17% of executives who took the poll said their companies have not made donations yet but plan to in the future, though whether the businesses ultimately follow through is another question.

In a somewhat worrying sign for legalization campaigns, nearly 20% of executives said their companies don’t plan to pitch in at all, while more than a third said their businesses haven’t yet donated and are still deciding whether they will.

Wooing the sizable undecided segment of the industry could make or break some campaigns.

Legalization supporters have been sounding the alarm about the industry’s overall lack of financial support, particularly for recreational marijuana measures in California and Massachusetts and a medical measure in Florida.

Several campaigns are facing increasing opposition from influential individuals and politicians who are planning to pump millions of dollars into defeating legalization at the polls.

The fear this year is that marijuana companies will become complacent, thinking that legalization in various states is a lock considering the strong momentum behind cannabis in general.

On the bright side, marijuana investors seem particularly willing to open their wallets to support legalization: nearly 30% have already made a contribution, and 20% are still planning to.

With a longer-term outlook on the industry and more access to capital than the average business, investors have reason to make donating to legalization initiatives a priority.

Planned future donations from investors who responded to the poll amount to an average of nearly $42,000, more than three times the amount businesses in this segment have already contributed. That means legalization campaigns could get a much-needed boost heading into the elections.

Eli McVey can be reached at