You can now add ‘drug pusher to America’ to his resume, which already includes almost breaking the British Pound, being both a convicted felon in and banned from entering France, as well as being a financial backer of the Ukrainian crisis in hopes of exploiting oil and gas opportunities.
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros hopes the U.S. goes to pot, and he is using his money to drive it there.
With a cadre of like-minded, wealthy donors, Mr. Soros is dominating the pro-legalization side of the marijuana debate by funding grass-roots initiatives that begin in New York City and end up affecting local politics elsewhere.
Through a network of nonprofit groups, Mr. Soros has spent at least $80 million on the legalization effort since 1994, when he diverted a portion of his foundation’s funds to organizations exploring alternative drug policies, according to tax filings.
His spending has been supplemented by Peter B. Lewis, the late chairman of Progressive Insurance Co. and an unabashed pot smoker who channeled more than $40 million to influence local debates, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The two billionaires’ funding has been unmatched by anyone on the other side of the debate.
Mr. Soros makes his donations through the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit he funds with roughly $4 million in annual contributions from his Foundation to Promote an Open Society.
Mr. Soros also donates annually to the American Civil Liberties Union, which in turn funds marijuana legalization efforts, and he has given periodically to the Marijuana Policy Project, which funds state ballot measures.
Mr. Soros’ Open Society Foundations have annual assets of more than $3.5 billion, a pool from which he can dole out grants to pet projects, according to 2011 tax returns, the most recent on file for his charitable organizations.
David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who often are cited for their conservative influence, had $308 million tied up in their foundation and institute in 2011.
“What we’re going to see over next decade is states repel marijuana prohibition and then the federal government following suit. It’s not a question of whether it’s going to happen; it’s a question of when.
Mr. Soros and Lewis, with help from the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, helped 2012 ballot initiatives that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado. Federal law still outlaws possession, use, sale and distribution of the drug.
Mr. Soros, Lewis and their various nonprofits provided 68 percent of the funding that went to New Approach to Washington, the group that mobilized signatures to get the initiative on the state ballot and then promoted it.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a grass-roots group that supported pot legalization in Colorado, was established by the Marijuana Policy Project and was 67 percent funded by nonprofits associated with the two billionaires. The campaign then bankrolled Moms and Dads for Marijuana Regulation, a seemingly unassociated group of pro-legalization parents that in reality consisted of only a billboard and a press release, according to state election records.
“The other side has so much money, it’s incredible, and the bulk of it is coming from a handful of people who want to change public policy,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Save Our Society From Drugs, whose organization was the largest donor to Smart Colorado, the initiative opposed to legalization.
“When we look at what we’ve been able to raise in other states, they raise millions. We’re lucky if we can raise $100,000. It’s been a process of basically brainwashing the public. They run ads, put up billboards, get high-profile celebrity support and glowing media coverage. If you can repeat a lie often enough, the people believe,” Ms. Fay said.
• In Alaska, the grass-roots Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has emerged with the help of funding from the Marijuana Policy Project, which gave the campaign its first big contribution of $210,000.
If history repeats itself, then a few months before the election in Alaska, the Drug Policy Action group, the political arm of Mr. Soros‘ Drug Policy Alliance, will start contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund a media blitz and drive voters to polls to help support the measure.
Mr. Soros also is putting money into studies that show economic benefits from marijuana legalization.
In Colorado, the Drug Policy Alliance helped bankroll the Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s study that found marijuana legalization could generate as much as $100 million in state revenue after five years. That research was widely considered to have influenced the election.
The ACLU also has penned studies supporting legalization, and the Marijuana Policy Project commonly cites these and Drug Policy Alliance research to argue its case for legal marijuana.
Last year, Mr. Soros, via donations from his Open Society Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance, helped fund Uruguay’s effort to become the first country to legalize the commercialization of pot. He also offered to pay for a study to evaluate the ramifications of the experimental legislation, which he has said will reduce overall drug use and help fight illegal drug trade, according to news reports
Full article: George Soros’ real crusade: Legalizing marijuana in the U.S. (Washington Times)