Lee, who used to fly ultralight planes and loved motorcycles, made the legalization of marijuana his life cause after a 1990 fall left him paralyzed from the waist down during tour as a lighting technician for Aerosmith. Medicinal pot, illegal at the time, served to dampen the back spasms as he sat in his wheelchair, he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Supporters said Lee decided to push the measure even though veteran activists urged him to wait until 2012. But Lee has said the recession made his tax-and-regulate message all the more relevant.
"I've always thought since I grew up in the 70s that cannabis prohibition is unjust and hypocritical," Lee, 47, told ABC News earlier this year.
Oakland's Oaksterdam University, which Lee founded three years ago, is the centerpiece of a small marijuana business empire that brings in as much as $7 million a year. The university, which has grown to three campuses in California and one in Michigan, has given his cause a platform.
The school, which boasts that it provides "quality training for the cannabis industry" and teaches more than 4,000 people a year, along with Lee's other businesses, have helped revitalize part of downtown Oakland and turned the city into something of an unofficial capital of the legalization movement.
"The bad economy has definitely helped us out a lot as far as opening up a lot of people's minds to seeing that this is a waste of money and that we need to use our public funds better and tax these people," Lee told ABC News.