Peter B. Lewis, Billionaire Pot Philanthropist, Dead at 80
Peter B. Lewis, billionaire pot philanthropist and chairman Progressive Insurance, died in his home in Coconut Grove of natural causes on Saturday afternoon, he was 80 years old.
Lewis donated millions of dollars towards cannabis legalization reform in America. National Organization of the Reformation of Marijuana Laws Executive Director Allen St. Pierre estimated Lewis contributed about $40-60 million to various organizations since the 1980s.
During the 2012 election, Lewis spent nearly $3 million to help medical cannabis become legal in Washington and Massachusetts.
Lewis had been a financial backer for medical cannabis for years. He was also very public about his cannabis use, having first tried pot at the age of 39. He used it for pain relief on the advice of his doctor in 1998 after a partial leg amputation left him with an incurable infection.
In 2000, Lewis was arrested on a simple possession charge in New Zealand and spent one night in jail.
Lewis was originally from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He would eventually take over the insurance company co-founded by his father.
"Our marijuana laws are outdated, ineffective and stupid," Lewis said in a 2011 Forbes interview. "I don't believe that laws against things that people do regularly, like safe and responsible use of marijuana, make any sense."
Lewis was ranked on #377 on Forbes' list of American billionaires. At the time of his death, Lewis was worth an estimated $1.25 billion.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.