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Coachella Music Fest Promoter’s Anti-Cannabis Industry Bias Revealed

Sorry, bro. Pot won’t be allowed at this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Or next year’s, or any foreseeable-in-the-future years. The promoter is that anti-cannabis.

Though recreational cannabis use became legal in California on New Year’s Day and the festival’s location at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio is private property where, in theory, cannabis product use and sales could take place, promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) made clear cannabis use or sales at the festival and campgrounds is prohibited.

“Sorry bro,” a FAQ on the festival’s official website states. “Marijuana or marijuana products aren’t allowed inside the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Even in 2018 and beyond. If that changes we will update this answer.”

According to cannabis advocacy publication (and other media reports), what’s not as clear to the public is AEG owner Phillip Anschutz’s support of anti-cannabis campaigns and organizations.

“It’s not widely known that AEG founder Philip Anschutz’s private family foundation has donated thousands of dollars to anti-drug groups over the last few years,” wrote Freedom Leaf’s Doug McVay.

McVay’s article listed more than $200,000 in donations from the Anschutz family’s foundation to Smart Approach to Marijuana and its Colorado chapter. SAM is an anti-cannabis organization that equates the legal cannabis and tobacco industries in its slogan, “Preventing Another Big Tobacco.” According to its website, the bi-partisan nonprofit “envisions a society where marijuana policies are aligned with the scientific understanding of marijuana’s harms, and the commercialization and normalization of marijuana are no more.”

Just yesterday, in Anschutz-related news, Denver news platform Westword posted an article titled “Colorado’s Most Anti-Pot Newspaper Launches New Attack on Marijuana.” The piece quoted the Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette‘s announcement of a new series of stories “that will take a hard look over the next few months at legalization’s lessons, exploring what the unintended consequences and unexpected complications have been of this national experiment.” According to Westword, the new series is only the most recent anti-cannabis coverage published by the Gazette since legalization in Colorado.

“Perhaps future items [in the series] will highlight positives since the November 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which sanctioned limited sales of recreational marijuana in the state. But you can bet those familiar with the Gazette under Anschutz aren’t holding their breath,” Westword’s Michael Roberts wrote.

Denver-based businessman Phillip Anschutz, owner of AEG parent company Anschutz Corporation, was for many years Colorado’s only billionaire. Son of oil wildcatter Fred Anschutz, Phillip bought his father’s successful oil business in 1962 and since then expanded its interests globally to include railroads, real estate, telecom, publishing, and entertainment.

According to, his current net worth is $13.3 billion. Under the Anschutz corporate umbrella, he owns the Regal Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, event promoter Golden Voice Entertainment, and an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers. AEG owns and operates more than 100 entertainment venues worldwide, including Staples Center, home of the Lakers, London’s O2 arena, and The Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace, among other high-profile venues. That’s in addition to promoting tours and live events for a roster of A-list performers, making AEG second only to entertainment promoter Live Nation.

Anschutz rarely gives interviews, preferring to stay out of the limelight, though his support of conservative organizations and politicians has been long-standing and is not a secret. The United Church of Christ posted an article, highlighting Anschutz’s support of “extreme” right wing organizations, as well as proposed anti-LGBT legislation in Colorado, dating back to 1992. The article listed charitable donations by Anschutz and his foundation, and was cited by media outlets in the weeks prior to the 2017 Coachella Festival.

The controversy, covered extensively by music publication Billboard, prompted Anschutz to issue a rare statement, which labeled reports on alleged anti-LGBT bias as “fake news” and “garbage.”

“Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news–it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us–the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form,” the statement read.

McVay, in his recent Freedom Leaf post, also pointed out a $25 million donation from the Anschutz Foundation to the University of Colorado’s Aurora campus, to build the Anschutz Medical Campus, which also is the location of the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR).

However, a 2016 $5,000 donation from the foundation was made to Denver’s Harm Reduction Action Center, which provides needle exchange resources to at-risk and homeless individuals, McVay pointed out.

Donation tracking website reported that in election year 2016, the Anschutz Foundation made political donations of more than $2.1 million, of which 51 percent went to Republican candidates and organizations. Foundation donations to presidential candidates in 2016 included contributions to the campaigns of Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton.

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