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Sheldon Adelson: How the tragic death of his son Mitchell sent casino mogul to war against marijuana legalization

While he was known for his lavish contributions to Republican Party candidates, he also made it his life's mission to fight the battle against marijuana legalization
UPDATED JAN 12, 2021
Sheldon Adelson (Getty Images)
Sheldon Adelson (Getty Images)

Even as news about the death of Casino mogul and Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson continues to make headlines, there are quite a few things about the late 87-year-old that leaves people doffing their hats with massive respect. While he was known for his lavish contribution to the Republican Party candidates, he also made it his life's mission to fight the battle against marijuana legalization. 

There were personal reasons behind the move as he lost his son, Mitchell Adelson, in 2005 to drug overdose involving cocaine and heroin. As per norml, his other son, Gary, also had his share of troubles with drug addiction and was reportedly estranged from his father altogether. The site also added that Adelson believed that marijuana was a "gateway drug" that led to his son's problems with harder drugs later.

Adelson and his wife Miriam (Getty Images)

2014 saw him donate a whopping $1.5 million to the Drug-Free Florida campaign to help beat the medical use of marijuana initiative and later another $1.5 million in 2016 to fight the pending medical use initiative. In 2016, he also contributed $2 million to defeat Amendment 2—Florida’s medical marijuana measure. He followed it up with $500,000 to oppose the legalization in Arizona. He spent $5 million in 2014 alone that saw the medical marijuana measure's outcome being drastically changed in that state. 

Furthermore, he also spent $140 million on buying the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which according to Leafly has a history favoring cannabis legalization. Soon after his purchase, the paper withdrew its previous support for the legalization of the drug. According to the Washington Times, Andy Abboud, vice president of Las Vegas Sands, said: "Pro-marijuana folks have awoken a sleeping giant in Sheldon and Miriam Adelson." His wife, a physician, has also set up drug treatment centers.

Adelson and his wife are friends with President Donald Trump. The latter also owns a resort in Las Vegas. In 2018, Adelson's wife was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work on establishing research centers that was wholly committed to fighting substance abuse.

Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in an East Room event at the White House as Founder, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam Ochsorn look on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC(Getty Images)

The decision to spend a ton of money towards the Drug-Free Florida campaign came after Adelson spoke to Mel and Betty Sembler, two prominent Republicans from Florida who had made a name for themselves after being involved in anti-drug efforts. 

Adelson died late Wednesday after complications related to his cancer treatment. In a statement released to the Las Vegas Review-Journal after his death, Miriam said: “It is with unbearable pain that I announce the death of my husband, Sheldon G. Adelson, of complications from a long illness. To me — as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues — he is utterly irreplaceable.”

According to CNN, his funeral will be held in Israel. The report added there were plans for a memorial in Las Vegas, where he ran his Palazzo Casinos and will be held at a later date.