Pubdate: Thu, 11 Oct 2012
Source: Valley Advocate (Easthampton, MA)
Copyright: 2012 New Mass Media
Author: Maureen Turner


The political committee behind Question 3, called the Committee for
Compassionate Medicine, is well funded-controversially so.

 From August of 2011 to Sept. 20, 2012, the committee raised
$1,071,502, according to records from the Massachusetts Office of
Campaign and Political Finance. Of that, $1,022,000-95 percent-came
from one donor, Peter Lewis of Mayfield Village, Ohio.

Lewis' profession is listed on the reports as "retired." But he's best
known as the longtime chair of the insurance company Progressive-and,
more recently, as the funder behind drug reform campaigns here and in
other states, as well as other political causes. Forbes magazine
recently reported that Lewis has spent somewhere between $40 million
and $60 million on marijuana reform efforts since the 1980s. Other
high-profile donations to the Massachusetts campaign include $10,000
from Marcia Carsey, a Hollywood TV producer (The Cosby Show,
Roseanne), and $25,000 from Henry van Ameringen, the heir to a
fragrance company who also supports mental health and gay rights campaigns.

"Our marijuana laws are outdated, ineffective and stupid," Lewis wrote
in Forbes in 2011. "I'm not alone in thinking this: half of Americans
believe we should stop punishing people for using marijuana. And not
coincidentally, more than half of Americans have used marijuana
themselves"-including Lewis, who wrote that he began as a recreational
user but later came to rely on the drug for pain relief, after having
his leg amputated due to an infection at the age of 64. In recent
years, marijuana reform-both legalizing its medical use and regulating
and taxing its recreational use-has "become sort of a central
philanthropic interest of mine," he wrote.

Lewis' money has helped the Committee for Compassionate Medicine pay,
among other bills, $28,000 in legal fees to the Boston firm Libby
Hoopes; $177,000 to the Dewey Square Group, a national lobbying firm
with an office in Boston; $131,000 to the Boston PR firm Rasky
Baerlein Strategic Communications; and $433,000 to SpoonWorks, a
Brookline-based firm hired by the committee to collect petition signatures.

Lewis' money has also left the committee vulnerable to criticisms.
"Essentially, this ballot is being bought by an out-of-state deep
pocket," Heidi Heilman of the Mass. Prevention Alliance, a leader of
the opposition to Question 3, told the Advocate. It's a situation too
common in American politics, she added: "The wealthy get to make the

Heilman's sentiment was seconded by Mary Boyle, a spokesperson for
Common Cause, who recently said in an article by Boston University's
New England Center for Investigative Reporting on ballot question
funding: "You are not supposed to be able to buy a [ballot campaign].
Democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder."

The same article included an email comment from Jennifer Manley, a
spokesperson for the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, about
Lewis' role in the Massachusetts campaign: "Mr. Lewis is extremely
passionate about ensuring all patients who can benefit from the use of
medical marijuana have safe access to it. ... Massachusetts's
prohibition on medical marijuana means that patients and their
physicians are unable to consider the full spectrum of medical
treatments available. In providing compassionate care, it should be up
to the doctor and his or her patient to decide the best course of
treatment, as it is in 17 other states."

Vote No on Question 3, the committee opposed to the measure, has run a
shoestring campaign, collecting a total of $1,800 in donations, with
no one donor giving more than $600. That highest donor was Kris
Mineau, executive director of the Mass. Family Institute, a
conservative Woburn-based nonprofit that also opposes gay marriage and
abortion and supports prayer in public schools and other public
venues. The committee also lists an in-kind contribution of $1,195
from the Mass. Medical Society, which hosted a campaign event for the
group. As of its most recent finance report, filed last month, the
Vote No on Question 3 committee had yet to report any campaign

Heilman said the funding behind the Committee for Compassionate
Medicine reveals the group's bigger agenda: "This is one billionaire
pushing his national agenda to legalize pot. He's done it state by
state, and Massachusetts is one of his targets."

Heilman said her group will counter the large war chest of the
opposing side "one vote at a time. ... Every informed voter
understands how devastating this will be for the state of

If the tables were turned-if a wealthy donor offered to fund the "No
on 3" side-would Heilman accept the money? "If you are asking me how I
feel about out-of-staters coming in and buying the ballot question, I
feel that that is an obstruction of the democratic process," she said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt