Peter B. Lewis, the founder of Progressive Insurance and philanthropist, has passed away just twelve days after his eightieth birthday. Mr. Lewis apparently died of natural causes, said Jennifer Frutchy, Mr. Lewis’s philanthropic adviser, as reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Peter built his fortune, estimated to be around one billion dollars at the time of his death, when he and his mother borrowed $2.5 million to buy out the company he was working for, then known as Progressive Mutual Insurance Company of Mayfield, Ohio, a small insurance firm with just 100 employees in 1965. Now Progressive is the fourth-largest auto insurer in the United States with over 26,000 employees, known for the iconic advertising character Mr. Lewis loved, the headband-wearing customer service rep “Flo”, that helped make Progressive a household name.
It is estimated over Mr. Lewis’s lifetime he gave half a billion dollars away to causes that include his alma mater, Princeton University, museums, art institutes, and political campaigns. But here at National Cannabis Coalition we’ll always be most grateful for Mr. Lewis’s generosity in funding successful campaigns for marijuana reform, beginning with funds for signature gatherers for California’s Prop 215 to become the first medical marijuana state, continuing with donations that provided the majority of funding to the Marijuana Policy Project, and culminating in his donations to Colorado’s Amendment 64 and his majority funding of Washington’s Initiative 502 to become the first two legal marijuana states.
“The role that Peter has played in marijuana reform is that of leading this movement to the very brink of success,” said lawyer Graham Boyd, Lewis’s political strategist. “We’ve won two important states and I think just in the very near future there’s going to be a cascade of victories that will be attributable to him and I do wish he had lived to see that success.”
Peter Lewis was born on November 11, 1933 in Cleveland, and passed away at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida, on Saturday afternoon. His initial experience with marijuana began in 1972 but he began using more regularly in 1998 to help treat pain he suffered after a partial leg amputation following an infection. In 2000, Mr. Lewis was jailed in New Zealand when airport drug dogs detected marijuana in his luggage. Up to his death, Mr. Lewis was fighting marijuana prohibition, recently donating money to the New Approach Oregon campaign to legalize marijuana in 2014.
“Our marijuana laws are outdated, ineffective and stupid,” said Mr. Lewis to Forbes Magazine in an interview two years ago. “I don’t believe laws against things people do regularly, like safe and responsible use of marijuana, make any sense.” Neither do we Mr. Lewis. Thank you for putting a whole lot of money where your mouth is. Rest in peace.