Discount Tire Boycott Movement Grows as Owner Donates $1M to Keep Marijuana a Felony

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Phoenix-based Discount Tire Company and its billionaire owner, Bruce Halle, face a growing boycott movement after making a $1 million donation to help defeat Proposition 205, the ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Arizona.

In August, local immigrant-rights groups organized a boycott after Discount Tire stores posted "Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio" signs in their windows. An infamous foe of the Latino community, Arpaio is almost certain to face criminal charges of contempt for violating a federal judge's orders in connection with the landmark discrimination case Melendres v. Arpaio.

Now, if recent polls prove accurate, Discount Tire has taken a stand against roughly half the state's registered voters.

Under Prop 205, it would be legal for adults of drinking age to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, which could be purchased at a state-run system of retail shops or grown in limited quantities for personal use. Possession of more than an ounce up to 2.5 ounces would be a non-arrestable civil offense subject to a $300 fine.

Kathy Inman of MomForce AZ and activist Iain Davidson were among those who were quick to call for a boycott. But the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona — the organization that is backing the ballot initiative — didn't get behind it immediately.

"We are disappointed Discount Tire has made the decision to support marijuana prohibition," the campaign said in a written statement in response to New Times's request for comment. "But for the next two weeks, we will continue to educate Arizonans about the benefits of ending prohibition and taxing and regulating marijuana sales to adults."

Halle, a Paradise Valley resident, is reportedly worth more than $8 billion. No matter how many people who choose not to buy Discount Tire products because of his stance on marijuana or Sheriff Arpaio, it probably won't hurt his bottom line.

Then again, $1 million won't automatically allow Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy to tip the scales against Prop 205. Polls indicate that the vote will be close, depending largely on the election-day turnout of Democrats and young voters. But Halle's cash means ARDP can flood the airwaves with more of its Reefer Madness-style propaganda and put more "vote no" signs on street corners.

While the pro-Prop 205 campaign relies almost solely on contributions from the national Marijuana Policy Project and the Arizona medical-marijuana dispensaries that will make millions from the initiative, ARDP taps a wide range of well-heeled sources, like the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

Last month, the group accepted $500,000 from Insys Therapeutics, a synthetic THC-maker under investigation for its aggressive marketing of a deadly opiate.

In addition to hitting up Halle for $1 million, Arizona Secretary of State records show, ARDP has this month engaged in a "Call-a-Tycoon" fundraising effort:

• $100,000 from Larry Van Tuyl, a Phoenix resident whose family sold its string of car dealerships to Warren Buffett in 2014.

• $10,000 from Bennett Dorrance, Scottsdale resident and heir to the Campbell Soup fortune.

• $10,000 from Tucson real estate mogul Donald R. Diamond, an ally of U.S. Senator John McCain whom the New York Times in 2008 called "Arizona's answer to Donald Trump."

• $10,000 from investor Foster Friess of Wyoming, a Trump supporter and, according to TheHill.com, a "Republican mega-donor."

Empire Southwest LLC, already a big contributor to ARDP, kicked in another $150,000 this month, and the Arizona Republican Party donated $10,285.

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