Billionaire May Try to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Ohio
Fifteen states, according to the request for proposals, have made marijuana legal for qualified patients, most through the passage of similar voter initiatives. The first was California in 1996.
Now Lewis is considering pushing it through in his home state of Ohio. That’s where Progressive (nyse: PGR), the auto insurer founded by his father and run by Lewis for many years, is headquartered. Lewis, who now spends much of his time in Florida, gave up his CEO role in 2000 but remains chairman. About 90% of his net worth is held in shares of Progressive.
“Of the states that continue to prohibit medical use of marijuana, Ohio stands out as having particularly high levels of voter support,” stated the RFP, “This provides an opportunity to enact a new law that will directly help patients and to do so in a manner that will serve as a model for other states.” The goal of the proposals, due May 15, is not just to pass a voter initiative legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio but to design a campaign that could create a model for future campaigns in other states. Funding will be based on whether someone can make a convincing case that Ohio is the best state in which to win.
“You shouldn’t take it as a given that there will be a ballot initiative this campaign,” said Graham Boyd, Lewis’ lawyer and adviser, “But we want to see proposals.” He would not comment on whether Lewis is considering conducting similar ballot initiatives in other states.
Lewis has already given millions to the reform group, Marijuana Policy Project including $900,000 in 2010. He also gave $200,000 in support of California’s Proposition 19, the bill that sought unsuccessfully last November to legalize marijuana in California. Other billionaires who gave money in support of that bill include George Soros and Facebook billionaires Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker.
Lewis may have personal reasons for being so passionate about medical marijuana. He was once arrested for cannabis possession in New Zealand; his lawyer told the court he uses the drug to combat pain from a partial leg amputation.
Thanks to Alan Johnson, a reporter at the Columbus Dispatch, who first tipped me off to this story. Here is his piece.
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