In an interview with Forbes, billionaire Charles Koch called cannabis prohibition “counterproductive,” adding that it “ruins people’s lives, creates conflict in society and is anti-progress.”
Koch is best known for funding Republican politicians but last year launched the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, along with libertarian think-tank Reason Foundation, the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, and the Weldon Project, a nonprofit that advocates for the release of cannabis prisoners. Through the organization, Koch plans to use $25 million of his $45 billion fortune—and his vast network—to influence cannabis legalization reforms by the end of the year, he said in the interview.
“By criminalizing [cannabis], it has huge negative manifestations, not only for the individuals who get trapped in that system, but also for society. We want a society that empowers people to realize their potential and contribute, but with these laws you block out millions of people.”— Koch in an interview with Forbes
Earlier this month federal Democratic lawmakers unveiled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act—which would legalize cannabis and implement related criminal justice reforms; however, there are no Republicans signed on to sponsor the legislation and Koch could influence holdouts to sign on in support of the measure.
In 2015, Koch used his political capital to support the release of Weldon Angelos, a Utah man who had served 13 years of a 55-year sentence for selling $1,000 worth of cannabis before he was pardoned by then-President Donald Trump (R). Weldon is one of the founders of the Cannabis Freedom Alliance who noted in an interview last year that 10 to 12 Republicans are needed in order to pass federal legalization reforms.
“With Koch’s influence,” he said, “I think that’s likely a possibility.”
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