First, it was Warren Buffet. Then it was Richard Branson. Now, George Soros has become the latest in a list of the world’s billionaires to come out in support of marijuana legalization.
A new article in Forbes.com, focuses on Soros and how he has become one of the largest supporters of drug reforms that range from medical marijuana use to lowering sentences for drug charges. In fact, his foundation has donated about $200 million to drug reforms since 1994–that’s double what most people had estimated until now.
Ethan Nadelmann runs the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance. He says that Soros has “played a historic role in the evolution of drug policy reform from a movement that was at the fringe of U.S. politics to one that is in the mainstream.”
It’s understandable why Nadelmann would make the comments, since the largest recipient of that $200 million is the Drug Policy Alliance. Nadelmann explained that his organization has worked with Soros for decades that the foundation now gives about $5 million a year to his nonprofit or one of its affiliates.
Soros is worth an estimated $24 billion, which he has built through his hedge fund and famous deals, such as when he shorted the British pound in 1992, into his Open Society Foundations. It’s now a philanthropic powerhouse that has given about $11 billion towards causes including public health, human rights and drug reform through his lifetime.
According to Michael Vachon, advisor to the chairman at Soros Fund Management., about $25 million of Soros’ donations has focused on reforming marijuana laws specifically, including decriminalization, medical marijuana use and full-blown legalization. Soros donated $1 million to help the Drug Policy Alliance’s specific ballot-initiative for California’s Proposition 19 in 2010. He also donated $400,000 to the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy in 2007, which supported decriminalizing holding an ounce or less of marijuana in Massachusetts. The measure passed in 2008.
Soros is one of the few billionaires who supports drug reforms. For example, when it comes to this year’s FORBES 400 who have also donated to drug reform over the past decade, they are Facebook billionaires Sean Parker and Dustin Moskovitz, who gave $100,000 and at least $70,000, respectively, towards supporting California’s Prop 19 in 2010 through Drug Policy Alliance. In 2012, Irwin Jacobs gave $5,000 in 2012 to the political action committee Drug Policy Reform Fund, which supports decriminalization, medical use and reforming the justice system. And in 2004, Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel also gave $5,000 to the Marijuana Policy Project .
There are even fewer billionaires who support groups that are against the legalization of marijuana. The most prominent is casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He’s worth $32 billion and gave $2.5 million to help strike down Florida’s vote on medical marijuana.