Billionaire Charles Koch on Why Cannabis Should be Legal

Portrait of a man with cannabis leaves in the background.

While many wonder why cannabis isn’t legal, they aren’t aware that the plant has a very colorful history. Since ancient times, people in different regions have used cannabis for medicinal purposes. Cannabis even underwent a period of prohibition as people considered it harmful. This prohibition lasted for decades.

But now, medical research has shown that cannabis has a lot of potential medical benefits. It’s now recommended for use for medical purposes and for recreational purposes too. Today, many people pursue the legalization of cannabis and it has drawn support from many famous people, including Charles Koch. This industrial billionaire and libertarian-leaning mega-donor has much to say about cannabis use.

Who is Charles Koch?

People see Charles Koch either as a good person or a bad one – an industry titan, a dark political figure, or the libertarian movement’s Marcus Aurelius. In the future, people might remember Koch as the billionaire who convinced both Republican and Democrat holdouts to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

The CEO of Koch Industries, who is now 85-years-old has admitted that the only time he used marijuana was in the 1980s and it happened by accident. After going to British Columbia to try helicopter skiing with his friends, they went on to drink gin and tonic with their dinner. Then the chef offered them a plate of “special brownies” for dessert. After eating one of the brownies, Koch started feeling high. He didn’t know that the brownies contained pot. He also claims that he knows many successful people – lawyers, doctors, and other professionals – who use cannabis.

Until today, Koch still doesn’t consume cannabis. Still, he has gone public with his long-held belief that cannabis use should be legal throughout the country. To support this, Koch placed his name along with $25 million of his fortune into cannabis legalization and criminal-justice reform by the end of this year. Aside from this, Koch Industries has already spent approximately $70 million over the last two years on the controversial issue.

The Cannabis Freedom Alliance

In April of 2021, Americans For Prosperity – the political advocacy group of Koch -has joined with other organizations to establish the Cannabis Freedom Alliance. The members of this alliance have already begun to lobby Congress to help lift the federal marijuana ban of the country. While he sat at his desk in front of his father’s oil painting, Koch is now ready to speak out regarding the reasons why he wants to support cannabis legalization.

The Cannabis Freedom Alliance will get launched on Tuesday. This is a very important move that could transform the dynamics of the cannabis legalization debate. This new coalition includes various organizations. These include Americans for Prosperity, which is a political advocacy group that the Koch brothers founded; Reason Foundation, which is a libertarian think tank; Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, which is a trade organization for marijuana; and The Weldon Project, which is a non-profit organization that advocates the release of individuals who got incarcerated due to marijuana-related offenses.

In the past, those who supported the legalization of cannabis have been primarily dominated by left-leaning organizations like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Drug Policy Alliance. In Congress, most of the people who support marijuana legalization are Democrats and only a handful of them come from the Republican party.

Why does Koch support the legalization of marijuana?

As previously mentioned, Charles Koch is not a consumer of cannabis. While he has admitted that he has tried consuming weed once by accident, that was the only time he has done so. This happened back in the 1980s when he consumed a brownie infused with cannabis. He wasn’t aware that they contained weed and after he ate one, he started feeling loopy.

One of the reasons why Koch supports the legalization of cannabis is that he has a Libertarian philosophy. For him, the prohibition of cannabis is a disruption of personal freedom and essential human rights. He also claims that prohibition exacerbates the mass incarceration issue in the US. This is very evident in the increase in the number of people in prisons and jails who have offenses related to cannabis use or possession.

According to Koch, the US should have already learned lessons from the problems caused by alcohol prohibition. Surveys have shown that approximately 70% of the country agrees with Koch’s view. So far, 18 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana already and more than 37 states have legal programs for the use of medical marijuana.

The problem with prohibition

On the subject of making cannabis legal and prohibiting the use of marijuana, Koch has a lot to say. According to him, he’s in the philosophy department. Criminalizing cannabis has significant adverse effects, not only on the people who get involved in the system but also on society as a whole. Koch said that it’s better to have a society that will empower people to discover their potential so that they can contribute to society. But the prohibitive laws end up blocking out millions.

Cannabis prohibition has created more issues for the US as the prison and jail populations have soared to over 2 million! Over the past decades, the Koch network and Koch himself have raised and spent billions of dollars already. Around one-third of this money has gone to right-of-center public policies. In his latest book, Koch admits regretting stoking partisanship. But when it comes to bringing the war on drugs to an end, he’s willing to partner up with anyone.

For example, back in 2015, Koch supported Weldon Angelos, a politician from Utah who served a sentence of 55 years for selling approximately $1,000 worth of weed to his informant. The judge who presided over the case said that, in his opinion, the mandatory sentence was cruel, irrational, and unjust. Koch encouraged Holden to start a campaign to fight the criminal justice reform. Then he worked with former President Obama to fight for Angelos’ early release.

Hyper-partisanship has the potential to define the political landscape of a country. It just needs an influencer like Charles Koch to push marijuana legalization for it to pass. Now that Koch admits that he’s a cannabis supporter, it will give other people the courage to speak up too. In other words, knowing of Koch’s involvement on the issue will bring comfort to a lot of people.

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