When Arizona and California became the first states to approve the “medical” use of marijuana in 1996, it was currency speculator George Soros who, as the New York Times put it, “almost singlehandedly” made these victories possible. He made million-dollar donations on behalf of ballot referenda and other organizing efforts.
With the door cracked open by “medical marijuana,” Soros continued to contribute several million dollars every year to promote wider drug legalizations. He backed organizations like the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance and its political-campaign arm, Drug Policy Action. These organizations first expanded legalization of medical marijuana to 20 states, then pushed through open-ended sanctionings of recreational use of marijuana products—first in Colorado and Washington state, followed by Alaska, Oregon, and D.C.
From 1994 to 2014, George Soros poured at least $80 million into efforts to undo drug prohibitions, prompting Joseph Califano of Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse to label him the “Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization.” Nearly matching Soros in funding the relaxation of drug laws was Peter Lewis, former chairman of Progressive Insurance and an active pot smoker himself. In the decades before his death in 2013, Lewis donated up to $60 million for the cause of legalization. Between them, Soros and Lewis provided more than two thirds of the funding for the groups that drove marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington.
- Reporting in Philanthropy magazine, philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/drug_donors
- 1996 New York Times report, nytimes.com/1996/12/17/us/with-big-money-and-brash-ideas-a-billionaire-redefines-charity.html