by Phillip Smith
Cleveland-based billionaire Peter Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance, wants Ohioans to vote on becoming a medical marijuana state. Through his attorney, he has put out a request for proposals for an Ohio medical marijuana initiative that will “create a model for future campaigns in other states.”
Lewis has given millions of dollars to drug reform campaigns across the country, including $900,000 last year to the Marijuana Policy Project and another $200,000 for Proposition 19 in California. Now, his drug reform funding is channeled through his attorney, Graham Boyd of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project.
Ohio “stands out as having particularly high levels of voter support,” the request said. It seeks proposals that include drafting ballot language, qualifying for the ballot, building a campaign organization, communicating with voters, and raising money–although it is probably safe to assume Lewis would kick in a substantial sum himself.
But it’s not a done deal yet. “You shouldn’t take it as a given that there will be a ballot initiative this campaign,” said Boyd told Forbes on Tuesday. “But we want to see proposals.”
Lewis’s interest in marijuana reform is personal. He was arrested for pot and hash possession in New Zealand in 2000, but got the charges dropped by making a generous donation to a local drug treatment center.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but only one of them, Michigan, is in the Midwest. In Michigan, it won through a voter initiative; if someone is on the ball in the Buckeye State, Ohio could be next.