A group formed by family members of a late billionaire philanthropist has donated $250,000 to an effort to legalize marijuana in Oregon.
The political action committee, New Approach PAC, was created by the family of the late Peter Lewis, an insurance executive and a longtime supporter of cannabis reform causes. Lewis died in 2013.
“It’s clear that his family is doing this to honor his legacy,” said Graham Boyd, an adviser to Lewis who heads the new PAC.
Lewis’s Death Comes at Critical Time
The campaign to legalize weed, sponsored by the group New Approach Oregon, is trying to put the question on the ballot in the November election. If the group succeeds, Oregon will be one of two states, along with Alaska, whose voters could chose to legalize recreational pot this year.
Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance, gave $96,000 to the Oregon campaign before he died in November. He was considered an invaluable part of the effort and a primary source of funding.
But his death raised serious questions about whether the money would continue to flow and whether legalization proponents could get their proposal all the way to the ballot. Leaders of the PAC and the ballot initiative touted the announcement as a sign things were still on tract.
Contributions to the PAC came from Lewis’s two sons, his brother, and his ex-wife, Boyd said. Other donors include Henry van Ameringen, heir to a fragrance company, philanthropist Phil Harvey, and Cari Tuna, who is married to a founder of Facebook.
Signature Drive Heads for the Finish Line
New Approach Oregon also announced that it had received a contribution of $150,000 from the Drug Policy Alliance, a national pro-marijuana group. The Drug Policy Alliance gave $200,000 previously.
The Drug Policy Alliance and its political arm, Drug Policy Action, were major players in the push to legalize marijuana in Washington in 2012. Lewis was also a major contributor to that effort.
Advocates in California had hoped his money would get them onto the ballot there this year. But several competing efforts to legalize cannabis in that state fell short, including the one that relied on funding from Lewis and his family. When it didn’t come, the group backed off until 2016.
Boyd wouldn’t say how much the Lewis PAC has raised, but said it would support several marijuana-related causes in coming months. Boyd wouldn’t say how much more might be given to the fight in Oregon.
Activists there are currently raising signatures to put legalization on the ballot this year. They need more than 87,000 valid signatures by July 3 in order to qualify. As of June 12, New Approach Oregon had collected more than 83,500. The group has raised about $900,000 so far.