Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Joins Fight Against Arizona Marijuana Legalization

New campaign-finance records show that billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson forked over $500,000 last week to the group fighting Arizona's marijuana-legalization measure, Prop 205.

Adelson — CEO and founder of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation — has been using his money to challenge marijuana legalization across the country, and his gift to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy is one of the group's largest to date. In two weeks, Arizona voters will get to decide whether they want Colorado-style legalization or continued zero-tolerance felony enforcement for cannabis consumers.

Observers of Arizona's race had wondered what was keeping Adelson from kicking in cash to ARDP. The gambling magnate contributes regularly to Republican causes and has given millions to anti-legalization groups across the country this election cycle.

A couple of days before his Arizona contribution, Adelson gave $2 million to the Protect Nevada’s Children PAC, a group hoping to persuade voters to reject Nevada's upcoming recreational-marijuana vote. That followed the recent donations of $1 million to defeat recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, and another $1 million to defeat a medical-marijuana proposal in Florida.

On Saturday, the newspaper Adelson bought last year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, became the first major American newspaper to endorse Trump's presidency.

The ARDP can now boast that it's fighting marijuana with money from gambling establishments, liquor stores, and a shady drug maker that views legal pot as competition. All this as its members claim to be motivated by a concern for children.

The group, led by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and helped out by Governor Doug Ducey, has tapped at least two other billionaires for their effort besides Adelson — Discount Tire founder Bruce Halle and Campbell Soup heir Bennett Dorrance. Halle's contribution of $1 million to ARDP, the group's biggest, sparked calls last week to boycott Discount Tire.

ARDP's donor list from last week also included Michael Ahearn, co-founder of Tempe-based solar-energy company First Solar, who gave $50,000.

On the other side, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona last week received a $200,000 boost from the Clifton dispensary, Holistic Patient Wellness Group, and a $250,000 donation from California tech-entrepreneur and marijuana activist Scott Banister.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern