Sep 042014

By Russ Belville with Jennifer Alexander

Two months from now, Oregonians will decide on Measure 91, a citizen initiative to legalize marijuana.  Law enforcement and drug prevention officials are attempting to produce a so-called “educational” summit and tour on marijuana, starring the nation’s leading anti-marijuana-legalization spokesperson, Kevin Sabet, who last visited Oregon in January to lobby the legislature to kill a marijuana legalization proposal nearly identical to the initiative.

These elected and appointed officials may not use their office, staff, equipment, and time to lobby against a citizen ballot initiative, but it seems they may have done so anyway.  Now it appears they are trying to retroactively fund their “educational” events with private dollars and cover up the fact they ever used public resources to initiate promotion and production of these political events.

The events scheduled consist of an entire day discussing marijuana in one city, followed by two-hour speeches about marijuana in twelve cities.  These events are scheduled just prior to the time Oregonians, who vote completely by mail, will be receiving their ballots.  Not only do the events feature Kevin Sabet, who founded the Project SAM organization that explicitly opposes marijuana legalization, but the summit also features the Colorado and Washington heads of the Project SAM chapters in those states that just legalized marijuana.  Every panelist and speaker at the summit whose public opinion is known opposes the legalization of marijuana.

There is no question among members of the public health community that these events are clearly designed to influence the election.  In an email obtained by 420RADIO, Karen Wheeler, the administrator of the Addictions and Mental Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority writes:

We have determined the multi-city educational tour that has been planned falls inside the lines of political activity given the featured speaker and the timing of the events right before the election.

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