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“There are addictive, harmful effects of smoking marijuana,” said Mr. Walters, citing studies by the federal government and organizations such as the American Medical Association. “The silliness of pop culture is pretending this isn’t a serious problem. Their entire message is built on phony propaganda that has been far too successful in the mainstream media.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration agrees, despite President Obama’s proclamations that marijuana is no worse than alcohol.

In the official “DEA Position on Marijuana” paper last April, the agency said marijuana has a “high potential for abuse, [and] has no accepted medicinal value in treatment in the U.S.” It also cited that “a few wealthy businessmen — not broad grassroots support — started and sustain the ‘medical’ marijuana and drug legalization movements in the U.S. Without their money and influence, the drug legalization movement would shrivel.”

Even Mr. Obama’s drug czar said the legalization of marijuana is dangerous.

“Young people are getting the wrong message from the medical marijuana legalization campaign,” drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said in December. “If it’s continued to be talked about as a benign substance that has no ill effects, we’re doing a great disservice to young people by giving them that message.”

But the message is being propagated by Mr. Soros and groups of his supporters who have created their own nonprofits and political action committees. Although these organizations appear on the surface to have no affiliation, closer examination shows all are linked through their personnel and cross-promotion.

Drug Policy Alliance President Ira Glasser is a former executive director of the ACLU. Marijuana Policy Project co-founders Rob Kampia, Chuck Thomas and Mike Kirshner originally worked at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which hosts industry conferences attended and promoted by Drug Policy Alliance staff, and has a political action committee that donates to marijuana advocacy candidates.

The Marijuana Policy Project’s co-founders also frequently speak at events sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance. The National Cannabis Industry Association — known as the chamber of commerce for marijuana — was co-founded by Aaron Smith, who previously worked at Safe Access Now, another Soros-backed nonprofit that promotes the legalization of pot.

After 20 years trying to influence policy, Mr. Soros‘ army is winning the marijuana debate. Last year, for the first time in four decades of polling, the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans support legalizing marijuana, compared with 30 percent in 2000. Lawmakers are following suit, with an unprecedented number of legalization bills brought to the floors of state legislatures.

“It’s only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized under federal law,” said Tom Angell, founder and chairman of the Marijuana Majority, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “We now have 20 states plus the District of Columbia with medical marijuana laws, two states have already legalized it for all adults over the age of 21 — politicians will have to follow the will of the people on this.”

Or follow Mr. Soros‘ money. Mr. Angell’s group is funded, in part, by a grant from the Drug Policy Alliance.