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Friday, June 21, 2013

George Zimmer, Ousted Men's Wearhouse Founder, Was Marijuana Reform Bankroller

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 1:42 PM

click to enlarge Someone else is gonna have to bankroll pot now
  • Someone else is gonna have to bankroll pot now

The signature gravelly patter of George Zimmer sent many a man scurrying into one of his Men's Wearhouses and into a newly purchased suit.

And there's more than being nattily dressed for which to thank the East Bay man, who was ousted from his position at the company he founded 40 years ago: There's medical marijuana and, if and when it happens, legalized cannabis.

Zimmer was California's most-generous donor to Proposition 215, the country's first medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1996. He also donated heavily to 2010's failed legalization initiative, Proposition 19.

Where else can we find such a generous supporter of drug legalization? Hint: environmentalists don't like it. Double hint: it's Sean Parker!

Zimmer was removed from his position as executive chairman by the Men's Wearhouse board on Wednesday. It's still unclear why. Zimmer, who owns 1.8 million shares of stock in the company for a 3.5 percent total stake, was the company's founder as well as its instantly recognizable pitchman.

While nobody is more responsible for funding marijuana reform in America than George Soros -- who plunked down $2 million for Prop. 19 in 2010, according to records, and donated $550,000 to the Compassionate Use Act's campaign in 1996 -- Zimmer opened up his wallet big for cannabis.

Zimmer donated $100,000 to Prop. 215, which made California the first state in the union to allow the medical use of marijuana by sick people. That was the biggest single donation by any Californian, the LA Times reported.

Zimmer also donated $50,000 to Prop. 19 in 2010.

Marijuana legalization -- and reform, for that matter -- is more or less stalled in California at the moment.

There are a pair of bills making their way (slowly) through the state Legislature, but the one that would make changes of substance -- Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's effort to put all of California's cannabis dispensaries under state control -- is encountering difficulty.

And after Prop. 19's failure, no eager billionaire has emerged ready to bankroll another go at it. This may change now that Colorado and Washington both approved legalization initiatives -- and if it does, look for cannabis legalization pushers to go back to Silicon Valley for start-up money.

Which brings us to Sean Parker. The Napster co-founder and early Facebook investor -- much-maligned in the media of late for his controversial Big Sur wedding -- plunked down $200,000 in support of Proposition 19, putting him ahead of Zimmer and closer to Soros territory than nearly anyone else who tried to make California the first state to re-legalize pot use for adults.

Consider that the next time you excoriate the billionaire.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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