When I first learned about the so-called Oregon Marijuana Education Tour, it sounded like what I now know it really is: a thinly-disguised political campaign against Measure 91 -- which will legalize recreational marijuana in this state if voters approve the citizen initiative in November.
Today Oregon Represenative Earl Blumenauer called for a federal investigation "to determine if federal taxpayer dollars are being used illegally to influence a statewide election." His letter to federal authorities is here. Links to backup documents are here.
This is a big deal.
Portland's Russ Belville, a.k.a. Radical Russ, has done some great reporting on this. Check out his post, "Oregon officials may be covering their tracks on illegal electioneering."
Belville quotes emails that show both state and federal mental health/addiction officials agree with Blumenauer that the Oregon Marijuana Education Tour is political, not educational, so no public funds can be used to plan or promote these events.
One of which was scheduled for October 2 at the Keizer Civic Center. (Based on what Janet Carlson says below, the date may have shifted to October 1.) Keizer, for those not in the know, is just north of Salem, Oregon's capital.
Yesterday I was curious about whether the Keizer portion of the Oregon Marijuana Education Tour, which features Kevin Sabet, an out-of-state crusader against marijuana legalization, was still happening. I phoned LIsa Miller, who was one of the two contact people listed on the Tour flyer.
Miller was very pleasant. She was quick to tell me she has nothing to do with planning for the event. This job, she said, has been taken on by Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson. Miller works in the County Health Department.
Even more curious now about whether public dollars were being used for a political anti-Measure 91 event, I phoned Carlson, leaving a message on her voice mail. This morning I decided to email Carlson my basic questions, since deck staining was on my agenda for the day, and it's difficult to interrupt that process for a phone call once I started.
Commissioner Carlson promptly responded. Kudos to her for that. Below is her email message. My questions are in bold. Carlson's responses are in regular type. My comments to her responses are shown [in bracketed italics.]
Hi Brian - Let me answer your basic questions via email and then we can follow up by phone.
(1) Is the event still planned for the Keizer Civic Center?
Yes, the event is a two-hour educational forum about the impacts of marijuana on children and youth. I understand, as you noted below, that there are political figures and other people who are asserting otherwise, but I do not concur that this is a political event.
[Well, as noted above, a Congressional representative, along with state and federal mental health program officials disagree. The Bend Bulletin reports that Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis, one of the event speakers, also agreed the forums are political: “Marquis said a cluster of seminars scheduled throughout the state in October could pour water on the measure.”]
As I heard the story, it was originally planned as part of the annual prevention conference that has been happening since at least the 1990s (when I got involved at the state level with children's issues), but instead of holding a conference in one place, the idea was to hold a series of events in various locations throughout the state with a similar group of presenters. However, when the directive came from Oregon Health Authority that prevention funds that go to health departments for education about substance abuse should not be used for the event, our county counsel advised the Health Department to no longer be involved in the planning. These funds have been used for many years for similar forums about alcohol, drugs and tobacco and their negative impacts on youth.
[Oh, please. Let's get real. The Oregon Marijuana Education Tour was obviously planned to take place just before November election ballots begin to be mailed out. The only speakers are avid opponents of marijuana legalization. Why would state officials order that no prevention funds be used for these particular events if they were just the same as forums in previous years? Answer: because they aren't just the same.]
Our counsel's advice was not at all a statement about the nature of the event. It is the duty of legal counsel for any organization to offer advice that avoids the organization being subject to lawsuits - whether those lawsuits have merit or not. Certain proponents of the legalization initiative were apparently criticizing the use of the grant funds and our legal counsel advised it would be wise to Marion County staff not to be in the middle of the controversy.
[It wasn't just proponents of Measure 91. As mentioned before, it also was state and federal officials, who concluded that the Oregon Marijuana Education Tour was clearly political in nature, not educational.]
I double checked the legalization measure and it is focused on adults age 21+. Marijuana is not proposed to be legalized for children and youth under age 21. My view is that should the measure pass, it will be equally, if not more, important for parents and community members to understand the impacts of marijuana on youth.
[Sure. But alcohol is a much bigger problem for high school students than marijuana is. So why isn't an Oregon Alcohol Education Tour taking place instead? Further, Kevin Sabet isn't a respected researcher regarding the effects of marijuana on youth. In fact, an Oregon State University professor heard Sabet speak when he came to this state earlier in the year to argue against legalizing marijuana and concluded, "Dr. Sabet is willfully misleading his audiences." So parents and community members aren't going to get much, if any, accurate information from Sabet.]
(2) Is Marion County still involved in sponsoring and planning the event?
I have taken the role of coordinating the event. When Commissioner Patti Milne resigned, the board office made some reassignments of responsibilities and I was appointed to chair Marion County's Public Safety Coordinating Council. The Council's Steering Committee met coincidentally during the time period when the Health Department was in the process of responding to the OHA directive and associated county legal advice. Sheriff Jason Myers, DA Walt Beglau, and others were in strong support of preserving the event. As elected officials, even if the event were political (and again, we strongly believe it is not), elected officials have the latitude under state law to take positions on candidates and measures and are not limited to doing this outside work hours.
Marion County is no longer being listed as sponsoring the event financially. The speaker and the cost of the room will be covered by private donations.
[OK, that's good. But a county staffer, Lisa Miller, has been shown as the event coordinator. She, and possibly other county employees, must have done some planning for the event before Marion County cut its ties with the Oregon Marijuana Education Tour. Which led to my next question...]
(3) Is Marion County going to reimburse the federal/state agencies who provided funds used so far in planning the Oregon Marijuana Education Tour event?
No county monies have been expended yet. There was not even a contract between the county and the speaker when I assumed the coordination role. I am currently coordinating with the sponsors so that the contract is with another fiscal agent and the sponsor monies can be distributed directly to the speaker without going through the county. Same situation with the contract for the Keizer facility. Again, this was after consulting with legal counsel. If the county were challenged, we would not have had any financial involvement.
[Maybe not officially, or as shown in budget documents. But again, a county employee was shown as one of the event coordinators. I find it difficult to believe that no staff time was expended on planning for the Keizer event. For example, someone had to arrange booking of the Keizer Civic Center.]
(4) If the event is still being held, who are the speakers?
Dr. Kevin Sabet is the keynote speaker. I have been exchanging emails with him. He has been the keynote speaker at other national events, such as the Amer Society of Addiction Medicine meeting and the AMERSA meeting last year. His presentations are science based.
[Not! Please read "Dr. Sabet Goes to Salem." There is plenty of other evidence showing that Sabet spreads false information. This came from the aforementioned OSU sociologist.]
We will also have a district attorney from an adjacent county as part of the event. Walt Beglau is working on that invitation., since he will not be available on the day of the event (the afternoon of Wednesday, October 1). I believe the DA's role is to make some brief remarks but primarily be available to answer questions after Dr. Sabet concludes his remarks.
The format will include the opportunity for the audience to ask questions. There will be moderators who will distribute cards and deliver the cards to the speakers. The information sheet (which was prepared prior to the assertions that the event is not educational) said that this was to avoid any debates among the audience and keep the event focused on the topic of youth substance abuse.
[Yikes! This proves the point of those who say this is a political, not an educational, forum. Only Sabet and other anti-marijuana legalization speakers will choose the questions to be asked and answered. Anyone who stands up and points out that the speakers are wrong, scientifically or otherwise, will be tossed out, I presume. Is that how you view education, people being lectured to without any opportunity for debate and discussion?]
Here's what I said in an email reply back to Commissioner Carlson. (Note: the italicized comments above were written for this blog post; but they reflect the points I made in my reply).
Janet, thanks for your detailed response. Most helpful. At the moment I’ll offer just a few observations.
Some of the “other people” (in your question 1 reply) who consider these events are political include officials who administer the state and federal addiction/mental health programs. Here’s an excerpt from the Russ Belville post whose link I shared with you before:
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 listener Jennifer Alexander, 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.
Alexander responded by asking Wheeler for more detail as to whom “we” refers to, and in response, Wheeler makes it clear that federal agencies consider the Summit and Tour as political, not “educational” events:
To answer your question, “we” means AMH leadership which includes me and Pam Martin, the Director.
Pam and I were called by a Congressman’s office yesterday as well to make sure no federal funds were being used to support these events in any way.
Prior to that call, last week I was contacted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and asked for written confirmation that no SAPT block grant or SPF grant funds were being used for political or lobbying purposes in light of the events.
So the federal government officials who administer funds that come to us have made this pretty clear to us I believe.
So Karen Wheeler and federal officials consider them to be political events. The question then becomes, why don’t you and others involved with the forums simply admit that these are part of the anti-Measure 91 effort?
It would be perfectly appropriate for members of the community, including elected officials on their own time, to campaign against Measure 91. The problem with calling them “educational” is that they obviously aren’t. My understanding is that the speakers and format will be exactly the same as they were before.
So since state and federal authorities consider the original Oregon Marijuana Education Tour to be political, not educational, it seems clear that even though federal funds apparently now won’t be used for these events, they still are political, not educational.
I’m concerned that the credibility of Oregon’s addiction and mental health community is going to be undermined if they get sucked into a thinly camouflaged anti-Measure 91 effort. How can youth, or anyone, believe their messages if the people speaking at these events represent only one side of the scientific, moral, and cultural debate over legalizing marijuana?
I’d encourage you to rethink the wisdom of continuing to brand the Keizer event as “educational.” In that regard, I refer you to a blog post I wrote that includes a critique of Kevin Sabat’s credentials by an Oregon State University faculty member. Sabat comes with a lot of scholarly/intellectual baggage, as I’m sure you’re aware.
Here’s a link to the blog post, followed by an excerpt from the post that includes quotes from the OSU sociologist.
Proving how political Sabet's "education tour" is, he came to Oregon in January to present his anti-marijuana legalization rant at an Oregon legislature committee hearing. Seth Crawford, a sociologist at Oregon State University, debunked his testimony in "Dr. Sabet goes to Salem."
Kevin Sabet appeared at 2pm today before the House/Senate joint judiciary committee to present his anti-marijuana legalization argument (his trip and presentation were paid for by the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association–highly ironic considering his persistent railing against the “big marijuana lobby”). I tried to talk to him after the presentation, but he essentially flipped me the bird and ran out of the capital. Very professional. During this presentation, he claimed (among other things) that:
(1) adolescent marijuana use rates have increased in states where medical marijuana is legal (he used data from a single state–Colorado–to support this claim),
(2) marijuana use rates will increase in states that legalize adult recreational use of the drug
(3) 1 in 6 adolescents who try marijuana will become addicted
(4) marijuana use is associated with declines in IQ
All of the above points are demonstrably invalid; furthermore, they are the result of an incredibly narrow and pernicious reading of the collected scientific evidence. My claim—that Dr. Sabet is willfully misleading his audiences while presenting these claims across the nation—is not new or novel, but my presentation of evidence demonstrating his inaccuracies is. [emphasis added]
"marijuana use is associated with declines in IQ"
--Via self-observation I have to agree with that. I have trouble focusing, organizing and solving complex issues while under the influence of weed. I become a space-case and am useless for most tasks except eating, fucking and watching TV. But so what? I mean, what do people expect it to be, a genius pill? Do people expect higher IQ scores by wine drinkers?
If the majority of people want weed to be legal we will just have to live with it and adjust. Life will go on.
Posted by: tucson | September 07, 2014 at 09:48 PM