Ohio billionaire and medical cannabis advocate Peter Lewis is putting his personal wealth behind another marijuana initiative.
This time, he’s backing a bid aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in Massachusetts – hoping to add it to the list of states with medical cannabis laws.
Lewis, who is the chairman of the auto insurance firm Progressive Corp., has pumped more than half a million dollars into the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, a group that is supporting a proposed MMJ initiative to make medical pot legal in Massachusetts.
His contribution is particularly significant because it accounts for nearly all of the group’s funding. In fact, the committee raised just $1,167 last year aside from the $525,000 Lewis donated.
The insurance executive has quickly become a major force in medical marijuana efforts in several states, most notably cannabis campaigns in Ohio and Washington State. In the latter, for example, Lewis contributed roughly $250,000 to a pot legalization effort in two separate donations.
The pro-cannabis group in Massachusetts is lobbying for a ballot initiative that would let patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis or other serious medical conditions use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued registration card. Nearly three dozen nonprofit cannabis centers would grow and dispense marijuana under the plan.
The group gathered tens of thousands of signatures in an attempt to get the issue in front of voters in November, and it submitted them to the state late last year. Enough signatures were certified to move the proposal forward, and it was sent on to the State Legislature, where lawmakers will debate it.
If they don’t approve the measure, campaign organizers must gather another 11,000 valid signatures to get the issue on the fall ballot.
Voters in Massachusetts are largely sympathetic to medical marijuana, and recent polls show strong support for pot legalization in general. The state already passed a bill in 2008 that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Lawmakers have also introduced several bills over the past year that would allow the use of medical marijuana – all of which are still being debated. Turning the issue over to voters is seen as a backup plan in case state officials don’t move forward with the various MMJ bills.