Anti-Marijuana Forces Seek Casino Money From Sheldon Adelson | Marijuana

Anti-Marijuana Forces Seek Casino Money From Sheldon Adelson


Proponents of keeping marijuana illegal are actively courting conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson to support their efforts to defeat legalization ballot measures in at least five states this November.

“I’ve had some discussions with people close to him, and we’re keeping them aware of developments,” Kevin Sabet, president of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) said in an interview that marijuana newsletter Weed Week published over the weekend.

He added that whether Adelson would fund the group’s anti-legalization activities is “literally the $10 million question.”

Adelson operates the Sands casino and resort in Las Vegas and is the one of the richest people in the world, according to Forbes. A staunch opponent of not just legalizing marijuana but also of allowing its medical use, he donated the lion’s share of funds in opposition to a medical cannabis initiative that was narrowly defeated by Florida voters in 2014.

The casino magnate is reportedly preparing to launch a Super PAC in support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but hasn’t yet publicly announced to what extent he will fund anti-marijuana efforts this year, including against a renewed medical cannabis effort in Florida and a full legalization measure in Nevada.

SAM announced last week that it has so far raised more than $300,000 to oppose legalization initiatives this year and is hiring field organizers in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Adelson, who recently purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is reportedly pressuring the newspaper’s editorial board to reconsider its longtime support for legalizing marijuana.

Legalization measures have officially qualified for statewide ballots this year in Maine and Nevada, and campaigns funded by national advocacy organizations are expected to collect enough signatures to do so in Arizona, California and Massachusetts. A grassroots effort in support of a similar initiative in Michigan is also seeking ballot access.

SAM’s choice to focus much of its anti-legalization efforts in Nevada this year as opposed to Arizona or Maine, for example, raised questions about from whom its new money was donated, with some speculating that support from Adelson could have influenced the group’s decision to hire an organizer in Las Vegas.

Legalization advocates say that it is hypocritical for SAM, which regularly decries what it sees as a marijuana industry that makes money off of addiction and prioritizes profits over public health, to try to raise funds from someone in the casino business.

“The movement to enact marijuana prohibition was funded by hypocritical, mega-wealthy industrialists,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project told in an email. “It’s not surprising that the foundering movement to maintain prohibition is looking to such folks for a bailout. It would certainly be hypocritical if SAM started taking money from booze-fueled casino activities to fight marijuana policy reform.”

But despite Sabet’s clear comments in the Weed Week interview about pitching Adelson’s people for funding, whoever operates SAM’s Twitter account disputed the notion that the group has received or is seeking casino money.

SAM is also making a concerted effort this year to convince city councils in target states to pass resolutions opposing marijuana legalization measures.

Photo Courtesy of Doug Shutter.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. So in other words, filthy prohibs have no problem making money off of addicitions (gambling, alcohol). But they have to “save the children” from the “evil” cannabis! Oh no! Could it be that cannabis use would reduce the rates of addiction to gambling and alcohol? I bet it does!

  2. cactusjim420 on

    I wonder how much money he makes off of big pharma? The fact he despises cannabis tells you he would loose cash when it goes medicinal or full on legal. When you can put money in place of people, this is what you get, an evil money grubbing pig, someone who cares nothing for a human, just what he can get out of their wallet. I for one would never go in one of his establishments, & will do all I can to help boycott his casino, that little piggy has enough dough, he’s simply void of any compassion where it concerns anyone else. I sure am glad I don’t have his disease, it appears incurable.

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