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Anti-pot group faces campaign finance violations from its work opposing marijuana legalization in California

Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco in April. (Haven Daley / Associated Press)
Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco in April. (Haven Daley / Associated Press)

A national anti-marijuana coalition is facing $6,000 in fines for campaign finance violations in its opposition to Proposition, 64, a November ballot measure that legalized recreational use of cannabis in California.

The fines have been agreed to by SAM Action Inc., the political arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group founded by Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy advisor to the Obama administration.

The enforcement staff of the California Fair Political Practices Commission proposed $6,000 in fines against SAM Action Inc.

The violations included not changing the campaign committee’s name to include its major donor, Juliet Schauer, a retired art professor and Pennsylvania activist who contributed $1.36 million to the group to cover expenses in California and other states considering marijuana legalization.

The committee also was late in disclosing five Schauer contributions, failed to accurately report the total amount of contributions and failed to file a list of its top 10 contributors, as required by the state Political Reform Act.

“A central purpose of the Act is to ensure receipts and expenditures in election campaigns are fully and truthfully disclosed,” wrote Galena West, the commission’s chief of enforcement, in a report on the violations. “In this case, the Committee failed to timely and accurately disclose contributions received and the Schauer Trust’s involvement as a major donor to the Committee.”

The committee's operators, including Sabet, told investigators that the violations were “inadvertent," caused by "inexperience with California campaign reporting requirements," the report said.

The commission will meet on April 20 to consider approving the fines recommended by its staff.

Sabet said in a statement that the campaign committee "rectified the situation while disclosing everything before the election."

Proposition 64 was approved in November by 57% of the state's voters.

Another $3,500 in fines are proposed against a campaign committee called Public and Mental Health Advocates Against 64, which was sponsored by and received major funding from SAM Action, Inc.

The enforcement staff alleges that the campaign committee did not identify in its advertising special interests that contributed more than $50,000.

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