Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is doling out millions to keep US states from decriminalizing marijuana use just as one of his former high-rolling gamblers is extradited to Mexico to face drug-related charges.
There are five US states – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – that have recreational marijuana referendums on November’s election ballot while four others – Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota – are considering regulating medical marijuana use.
Just as the Las Vegas Sands owner made it rain for anti-pot groups in the 2014 election cycle, Adelson (pictured, scowling) is cutting fat checks to keep fat blunts out of the hands of US adults. Adelson has given $2m to an anti-pot group in Nevada (his current home state), $1m to a similar group in Massachusetts (the state of his birth) and a further $1.5m in Florida (where he wants to build a casino).
Adelson’s anti-pot opposition extends to the rent-a-scribes at his recently acquired Las Vegas Review-Journal, whose editorial board now opposes the pro-marijuana measure it so wholeheartedly endorsed prior to Adelson taking the reins.
Adelson has reason to rail against drug abuse, having lost a son to a drug overdose in 2005, but his claims that marijuana is a gateway drug only hold up if you believe that mother’s milk leads to alcoholism.
More to the point, Adelson needs to be called out on his hypocrisy, given that his own casinos have profited handsomely from what law enforcement officials claim are the proceeds of illegal trafficking in far more dangerous drugs.
In 2013, Sands paid $47.4m to resolve a US Department of Justice investigation into Sands’ dealings with Zhenli Ye Gon (pictured, in glasses), a Chinese national who owned a Mexican pharmaceutical factory accused of importing massive amounts of the chemical building blocks of methamphetamine.
The DOJ slammed Sands for not appearing to give a damn that Ye Gon preferred to use Mexican ‘casas de cambios’ – mom & pop currency exchange outlets – to transfer $85m from Mexico to Sands casinos in Las Vegas, where Ye Gon played baccarat at $150k per hand.
In 2007, Ye Gon’s Mexico City home was raided by local police, who found $205m in cash lying around. Ye Gon was arrested four months later in the United States and has been fighting Mexico’s extradition request ever since.
On Wednesday, Ye Gon was finally extradited to Mexico to face charges of organized crime, drug-related crimes, illegal weapons possession and conducting operations with illegal proceeds. Ye Gon is being held at Altiplano prison near Mexico City, the same facility from which Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman made his infamous tunnel escape last year. As yet, there’s no word on whether Sheldon plans to pay Ye Gon the courtesy of a visit.