Ahead of Tuesday’s Election Gmail Founder Donates to Legalize Marijauna

There’s a serious shakeup going on in the world of pharamaceutical and recreation drug policy.  Across the country several states have legalized medical marijuana.  Despite staunch resistance from various groups — including prescription painkiller manufacturers who stand to lose millions if private marijuana growing is legalized — the number of states in which it’s legal to grow this pain-relieving plant for medical reasons continues to expand. 

Now some states are preparing to tackle a much tougher question.  Should marijuana also be legalized for recreational purposes? 

For Gmail founder Paul Buchheit, the answer is a resounding “yes”.  Mr. Buchheit, apparently apparently a “green” Californian in more ways than one, donated $100,000 USD to the Yes on Prop 19 campaign.  Prop 19 is a California ballot initiative that would legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Mr. Buchheit, who works at Facebook currently, also founded FriendFinder — another hot online property.  And he isn’t the only top Facebook brass to support the whacky weed.  Dustin Moskovitz who co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg donated $70,000 to the legalization campaign.

Some more of the tech industry’s brightest minds have also supported the campaign.  Sean Parker the financial supporter behind Napster and long-time Facebook collaborator, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, and Innovative Interfaces President Steve Silberstein have all donated money to it.

Despite the fact that many at Facebook seem to support the initiative, the company curiously chose to ban advertising in support of the ballot measure from appearing on its social networking site.

Apparently anticipating the controversy surrounding his donation, Mr. Buccheit posted an explanation of his donation on his blog, writing:

The essential issue is that prohibition not only strips us of our personal liberty, but it also funnels billions of dollars to violent criminal organizations. Prop19 obviously won’t solve all our problems, but I believe that it could be the turning point that leads us towards a more safe and sane drug policy. On this issue, the politicians will follow where the voters lead.

Prop 19 is popular in many areas, but the support in Silicon Valley is more visible because people here tend to have a greater degree of independence, and are therefore more likely to publicly express their support for what has historically been a controversial issue.

In preparation for a potential legalization, the San Francisco Bay Area recently legalized the nation’s first “industrial scale” marijuana farms.  While marijuana can impair one’s motor skills, offering similar driving dangers to alcohol and offers much of the carcinogenicity of tobacco cigarettes, many argue that its health risks are no worse than these legal recreational drugs.  Advocates argue that legalization would reduce street crime and would cut down on sales to minors.

Many U.S. politicians including the popular U.S. Congressman from Texas Ron Paul support decriminalization of marijuana.

It appears that the last three U.S. Presidents all experimented with marijuana at one point.  Democratic President Bill Clinton (who served from 1992-2000) infamously claimed , “When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it.  I didn’t inhale and never tried it again.”

Republic President George W. Bush (who served from 2000-2008) stated, “Al Gore, I tried it, it wasn’t part of my life.”

And current U.S. President Barack Obama stated  in 2007, “When I was a kid I inhaled frequently.” 

When asked if he inhaled, Obama, at the time serving as an U.S. Senator from Illinois quipped, “That was the point.”

Under Obama’s administration federal raids on growers in states with legalized marijuana have ceased.  Amid that backdrop and spreading medical use (and potentially recreational use) the debate of recreational use is raging and many of the tech industry’s top players appear to be throwing their weight behind legalization.