For decades the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada's leading newspaper, has taken a libertarian approach to drug prohibition and other public policy issues. But as I explain in my latest Forbes column, all that changed after casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a staunch supporter of the war on drugs, bought the paper last December:
In May 2014, when activists began collecting signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on Nevada's ballot this November, the Las Vegas Review-Journal welcomed the measure as "an opportunity to reset America's costly drug war." The paper's editorial board said "taxpayers finally seem to understand that spending vast sums of money at the local, state and federal levels on police, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and jails to lock up nonviolent offenders and enable the enrichment of gangs and thugs has done nothing to diminish demand for marijuana."
On Wednesday the Review-Journal came out against the very same ballot initiative, saying "recreational weed comes with health, safety and social costs that make legalizing marijuana a dangerous proposal for Nevadans." It warned that "legalizing weed would jeopardize the health of countless Nevadans, expose more people to drug abuse and addiction, put excessive stress on the state's health-care facilities and do little to relieve the state's bloated prison population."
Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and Republican megadonor, paid good money for that startling reversal, which was first noted by Tom Angell at Marijuana.com. Adelson, an ardent pot prohibitionist who bankrolled the opposition to a 2014 medical marijuana initiative in Florida that fell two points short of the supermajority required to pass a constitutional amendment, bought the Review-Journal last December for $140 million. That's 25 times what Adelson spent to defeat Amendment 2 in Florida, where he hopes to open a casino, but still just 0.5% of his fortune at the time, which Forbes pegged at $28 billion, making him the world's 18th richest person.
Adelson lost little time in pressuring the editorial writers at his new acquisition to reverse their position on marijuana legalization.