George Zimmer, Founder of Men's Wearhouse, Says Pot Helped Him Stay Away From Alcohol

By Kelly Burch 02/16/17

Zimmer has used marijuana for decades and has been an outspoken supporter of legalization. 

George Zimmer
George Zimmer Photo via YouTube

Businessman George Zimmer, who has been sober from alcohol for 35 years, says that his long-time marijuana habit allowed him to stay off alcohol. 

"I refer to [marijuana] as harm reduction," he said to Business Insider. "So the way cannabis helps is, when you lose your job, you don't go on a two-week bender.”

Marijuana helped Zimmer cope when he left Men’s Wearhouse, the clothing company he had founded 40 years before. He was fired from the company in 2013 due to irreconcilable differences with the board. 

Zimmer has been a marijuana user for decades. “I’ve been trying to do what I can over almost 50 years to try to de-demonize marijuana,” he told the Portland Business Journal last week.

Now, the outspoken entrepreneur is opening up about his marijuana habit and using his finances to push for changes to marijuana laws. "It was just one of those little things that I did over my life that pissed people off,” Zimmer said about his involvement with the marijuana legalization movement.

In 2010, Zimmer donated $50,000 to support a failed ballot measure for legalization in California (a similar measure passed last year). This week, he delivered the keynote address at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland, Oregon. "I think cannabis prohibition is one of the biggest cons ever perpetrated in this country," he said in his speech.

He argues that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. "The fact is — and I mean the scientific fact — [marijuana] is less toxic and dangerous than cigarettes and alcohol, which are the main drugs in the United States," he said. 

Zimmer believes the drug, which remains a Schedule I substance, has been overly demonized in American culture. His long-term use of marijuana throughout his successful career shows that people who light up are still able to lead productive lives. "I'm just following a kind of lifetime passion of mine to help correct this myth," he said.

Although Zimmer hasn’t invested in the marijuana industry yet, he says he's open to it. “I am thinking of it, but I haven’t pulled the string yet,” he told the Journal. “I think it’s fairly secure, and when I’m at these conferences I meet people who have interesting ideas. So we’ll see.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.