The campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use in California got a huge boost when Napster founder and Facebook investor Sean Parker - played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network - backed the 2016 ballot initiative in that state. Now another state with a ballot initiative has its own celeb supporter: PBS host and prodigious travel writer Rick Steves has pledged to match the next $50,000 in donations to Maine's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
This isn't the first time that Steves - who is also a board member of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML) - has been active in marijuana politics. He campaigned for legalization in his home state of Washington in 2012 and Oregon in 2014.
"I'm just working to hurry [legalization] along," Steves told Civilized last March. "And I'm kinda disappointed with all the pot enthusiasts that complain about the status quo, but they don't support organizations that are really working hard politically to bring about this change. Doesn't take a lot. If everybody just got on board and helped out these organizations that are so dedicated to ending the war on marijuana, we'd have this change much quicker."
Steves shifts his attention to New England
He decided to focus on New England this year because California looks like a lock to legalize recreational marijuana use this fall.
"[The California initiative has] plenty of money, and they've got a great law down there," he said. "All hands are on deck. So I think California is pretty much a certainty. And I was asking my friends who are my mentors and my insiders that I rely on for savvy advice on drug policy reform, 'Where could my money and time be best spent?' And they all said in Massachusetts and Maine. So I'm looking forward to going there this October and giving a lot of talks and helping out."
Steves also explained that he decided to get involved in activism because he was in a position to promote legalization without worrying about political or financial repercussions.
"This is an important issue, but people who agreed that it would be pragmatic and wise to stop the war on marijuana were afraid to speak out because it would hurt their business, or it would hurt their political prospects, or it would hurt their standing socially. I'm unique in that I don't need to be elected and that I'm my own boss - nobody can fire me. I'm not a publicly held company. And I can blame my European friends for what I think about drug policy. So I made a point not to promote marijuana but to promote ending the prohibition against marijuana."
You can listen to our full chat below.