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Multibillionaire investor George Soros backs Proposition 19 [Updated]


George Soros, the multibillionaire investor who helped bankroll three initiatives to change drug laws in California, endorsed the marijuana legalization initiative Monday and plans to make a major financial contribution to the campaign.

Soros, who invested $3 million in the medical marijuana initiative and two other measures, made his announcement in an opinion piece published online by the Wall Street Journal. "Proposition 19 already is a winner no matter what happens on election day. The mere fact of its being on the ballot has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in ways I could not have imagined a year ago," Soros wrote.  The article is scheduled to appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Soros, who runs a hedge fund and founded the Open Society Foundations, has not yet donated to the campaign. But Michael Vachon, an advisor to Soros, said that "he plans to make a significant contribution."

       Related: L.A. Sheriff will enforce pot laws even if Prop. 19 passes.

The initiative was the brainchild of Richard Lee, an Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur who has spent at least $1.5 million to draft the measure, collect signatures to qualify it for the ballot and pay for a campaign. The wealthy donors who have helped to pay for past efforts to change California’s drug laws had largely stayed out of the campaign until the last few weeks.

Peter B. Lewis, a retired insurance company executive, recently donated $209,005 to the campaign, and George Zimmer, the founder and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse, recently gave $50,000. Both businessmen
supported past initiatives to change the state’s drug laws.

In his opinion piece, Soros said that the nation’s marijuana laws "are clearly doing more harm than good" at a cost of billions of dollars a year "to enforce this unenforceable prohibition."

Soros wrote that regulating and taxing marijuana would reduce the crime and violence linked to criminal drug gangs and violations of civil liberties "that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest." He also noted that minorities are arrested at higher rates for marijuana crimes, creating arrest records that may follow them through life.

Although he endorsed Proposition 19, noting that it would allow recreational use and small-scale cultivation, Soros also suggested "its deficiencies can be corrected on the basis of experience." Besides allowing adults 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana, the initiative would allow cities and counties to authorize commercial cultivation, sales and taxation.

"Just as the process of repealing national alcohol prohibition began with individual states repealing their own prohibition laws, so individual states must now take the initiative with respect to repealing marijuana prohibition laws," Soros wrote.

[Updated: He donate $1 million to help pass Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization measure, which he endorsed Monday as "a major step forward."

The donation makes Soros, who is the chairman of a hedge fund and who founded the Open Society Foundations, the largest donor to the campaign after Richard Lee, an Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur, who has spent at least $1.5 million on the measure.]

-- John Hoeffel

Photo: AP

Comments () | Archives (264)

The rewason there are so many comments on here attacking Mr. Soros and medical marijuana is because this story is linked on the Drudge Report website which is a pro Republican site. We all know Republicans love to sell fear but don't buy into it. Mr. Soros is 100% correct!

The progressives will wipe out the Reblicannots and rule this country as we should. We will make anyone who work our personal piggybank. Thanks for all your help Suckas!!!

It is not morally or ethically right. Just like prostitution. Would we think the occurance of prostitution would become less of a problem if it were legalized? That there would be no more forced sex trade? That disease would decrease? Same reasoning legalizing marijuana - it will create different problems, it will not make the problems with the drug go away - problems will increase.

I'm very surprised by this since Soros is a progressive. Legalizing pot should be a conservative issue since it's all about freedom and states rights. You would think the progressives would be against it. Weird.

Soros also backed Obama in 2008 and we know what a smokescreen that "hope and change" was -- now we're fighting a Socialist agenda. So people, don't buy into Georgey's liberal elitist propaganda. His goal is power and influence no matter what the cost.

The Prohibition-era analogy Mr. Soros cites as one of his main points is false and inexact ... the attempt to ban a substance that had been in customary use for centuries by a large majority (80%+) of the adult population is far different from continuing a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, nor acceptable to society writ large.

Regarding the reduction of crime and violence linked to criminal drug gangs ... the profits to be made from selling other still-illegal drugs would remain large, and it is only reasonable to anticipate that dealers would therefore make efforts to expand into other parts of the population to protect their profits. As "medical marijuana entrepreneurs" such as Mr. Lee step onto the turf now controlled by criminals, do not expect the criminals to simply give up and walk away.

Some relevant questions ...

Would not the number of potential users, some of whom would become addicted (as to nicotine) soar under considerably more liberal drug laws?

Would not the cost to employers (pharmacies, banks, schools, hospitals, mass transit providers, etc.), and ultimately their customers, rise as such entities who deal with the public became obliged to check regularly and randomly on the drug consumption of their employees?

Would not the general use of narcotics increase the presence of innumerable government agencies to interfere in our lives?


If never-before allowed substances which clearly lead to the (at least temporary, and possibly long-term) impairment of users were made legal, there would certainly be consequences to our society that would prove difficult to easily or painlessly "be corrected on the basis of experience."

Wow. The morality police are out today.

Of course he wants it legalized. He wants a bunch of mind numb robots that have no ambition, self reliance or character so they can promise them free "drug stamps" modeled after "food stamps". It will of course not be "fair" if rich people can have drugs and poor people can't afford them. Only a dependence class can get the liberal elitist ruling class what they want. Power over the individual in favor of the collectivists.

I'm for the legalization of marijuana. It would greatly reduce crime, murder & the $ spent to fight it. I say this as someone that never uses mind altering substances. BUT....I have a visceral reaction whenever I see the withered hand of Soros involved. Nothing good comes from this Nazi collaborator.

Look closely at the picture of George Soros. You are looking at the face of the devil.

For all of you who are praising Soros for supporting the legalization of pot-DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHO THIS MAN IS AND WHAT HE IS ABOUT? How many of you crazy california liberals really support this evil man? Stay in CA folks-the rest of the nation will go on without your pinhead remarks and ideas.

This is a story about George Soros and Greg Nelson 10:21 PM is ranting about special interest money. Are you kidding me. Can anyone spell Moveon.org or the Tide Foundation. I guess union and lawyer special interest money does not count either. The Dems have spent more this election cycle than Rep, but you wouldn't know it by all the whining and nashing of teeth. Pathetic

The power behind Obama's throne has decided to back the prop that Obama has ordered his AG to stop, if passed. Too funny!

S0ros probably tokes himself. Sure looks like it

a sign of the times, out with the old ideologies and false assumptions,

signs of society evolving and settling in, much like how dust settles over time..

those who insist on retaining and enforcing outdated and unjustified concepts in politics will fade away with the time...

i hope this passes , we need to show the nation what a forward thinking population can do , this is only the tip of the iceberg. i am hoping in the years to come we see more reform within economics, environment and health policies .....

MORE MONEY TO WASTE ! soros is a full blown communist ! how does this look to the rest of the world ?

tons of money to be made, right soros ! gay marriage, legalizing pot, van jones a well documented communist, as green house czar ! what direction is America going soros ? a well documented communist !

And here I thought our president was so concerned about foreign investers affecting our elections and laws. Interesting. Soros has made a habit of interfering with AMerican politics and laws and you can thank him for much of our current economic woes after he and his buds did their asset stripping trick on the United States. Also, he contributed heavily to Obama's campaign. The man is delusional and fancies himself a king maker. Maybe he should stop smoking whatever it is he's smoking and realize that we're onto him.

Soros cares nothing for America and would love to see Americans become a bunch of dumbed-down pot heads.

I don't trust this man and I think he's an American hater.

wow the conservative contingent is out in full force today with their stories of gloom and doom and the "dumbing down of America".

Snap out of it and smarten up.

Wake up people...pot is ALREADY here whether you like it or not, and people are using it and will continue to use it whether you like it or not.

I don't want the government telling me what substances I can put in my body any more than I want it telling me what knowledge I can put in my brain.

You all talk like Soros is the one trying to control you but it sounds like you are the ones on the side of controlling others.

I have a question. How did this "medical marijuana entrepreneur" get the $1.5 million to become the biggest contributor to the Prop 19 campaign?

Don't get me wrong. I wholly oppose the War on Some Drugs. But I also oppose black market profiteering off of prohibition.

kat, there is far less disease and forced sex trade in Nevada (where prostitution is legal and regulated in most counties) than in states where it remains illegal.

Dan, I agree that conservatives (in the Teddy Roosevelt, "conservationist" sense of the word) should support legalization because it is about freedom and states' rights. But a lot of Republicans today are not conservatives. I would hardly call Bush II a fiscal conservative. He didn't play the social conservative role terribly well, either.

What a crock. Legalized pot will go the way of cigarettes. The family of the first person who dies of lung cancer or by driving while high will put the entire drug industry under with their lawsuits.

My wish is the conversaion include the domestic production of hemp and it's economic value, it's tax value.

As a graduate of Oaksterdam University (Marijuana school) with honors, I can say I agree with every thing this guy had to say.
Once I became better educated on legalization issue, it was obviously the far better route.
Even the California Govenor has signed into law making 1 ounce or less a ticket.
If people were better educated on this subject, legalization would win in a landslide.

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