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.]
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.
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]