Zimmer took time to lend support to the marijuana legalization movement as the keynote speaker in Los Angeles at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo on Friday. In his speech, Zimmer called the placement of marijuana on the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, equating it to drugs like heroin and ecstasy, “the biggest con that has been perpetrated on this country in the last century.”
The consensus second-most interesting man in the world, ousted Men’s Warehouse CEO George Zimmer recently told CNBC that, “I’ve been smoking marijuana on a regular basis for about 50 years.” Zimmer added sarcastically, “As you can see, it’s really impacted me in a negative way.” This past Friday, Zimmer joins a handful of notable executives like sir Richard Branson of the Virgin brand, Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey, and the late CEO of Progressive Insurance Peter Lewis, who died in 2013 as high-profile business leaders who have openly advocated for marijuana legalization. Zimmer, who founded Men’s Warehouse in 1973, lost his business in a power struggle between him and the board of directors in June of 2013. Despite the coup, Zimmer is still worth a modest $150 million, and he is using his free time to advocate for causes he believes in.
In addition to founding two new businesses, the web-based Generation Tux, and zTailor, which he describes as “an Uber for Tailors,” in a quest to give those following in Zimmer’s footsteps a platform to market their wares, he also took time to lend support to the marijuana legalization movement as the keynote speaker in Los Angeles at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo on Friday. In his speech, Zimmer called the placement of marijuana on the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, equating it to drugs like heroin and ecstasy, “the biggest con that has been perpetrated on this country in the last century.” Zimmer added another zinger ate up by the masses, saying “Everybody in the country knows what the truth here is, except the 535 people we elect to make these decisions in Washington, D.C.” In his speech, Zimmer also noted how marijuana’s classification weakens the case for other drugs on the schedule, saying “It’s treated like it was heroin. Everybody’s who is in high school hears that and goes, ‘What are they talking about?'”
The upcoming year will be a major test for the marijuana legalization movement, both for California and the U.S. in general. California’s state attorney general gave a positive review to ballot initiative for 2016 legalizing marijuana recreationally in the state. Zimmer also told CNBC that he donated $50,000 in 2010 in support of the failed Proposition 19 measure to legalize pot. A recent poll now shows that over 65 percent of California residents now support marijuana legalization. Activists in other states like Maine and Massachusetts have also worked to make legalization bills a likely component of the 2016 election cycle. Other states like Ohio and Florida will likely have medical marijuana measures on the ballot as well over the next two years.
In addition to advocating for decriminalization of marijuana, Zimmer also listed some business concerns with marijuana regulation. Zimmer told CNBC, “I think it’s important that we protect limited home cultivation without any government licensing, so whether it’s one plant or 10 plants, I don’t know, but I think that’s very important.” He also told startups seeking his support at the expo that he had considered investing in a marijuana business last year, but decided against it because “There are still a lot of questions that are raised in terms of dispensaries, and the way the IRS does not allow normal business deductions.” Even without financial support however, it is likely that legalization proponents will duly appreciate having such a well-known and nearly universally liked figure as a spokesman. In fact, I guarantee it.
CNBC – Jane Wells
Fortune – Michal Addady
LAist – Devon McReynolds
Yahoo News – Jian DeLeon