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Oregon Marijuana ‘Education’ Only Occurs When Marijuana’s on the Ballot

Russ Belville

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My colleague Jennifer Alexander has been doing incredible work digging through the Internet archives to expose so-called community education on marijuana for what is — blatant political propaganda funded by taxpayers to defeat marijuana legalization.

First, Jennifer uncovered the calendar of events for BestCare Treatment Services dating back to 2010. Rick Treleaven of BestCare was quoted in The Oregonian as saying, “the summit has been held for several years in October” and never received any complaints. This prompted me to investigate the 2012 Summit, as marijuana legalization was on the ballot in the form of Measure 80.

2014:  Legalization on ballot — two Oregon marijuana summits, one national summit;

2013:  Nothing on ballot = nothing on marijuana;

2012:  Legalization on ballot = two Oregon marijuana summits;

2011:  Nothing on ballot = nothing on marijuana;

2010:  Dispensaries on ballot = one Oregon marijuana training.

We’ve already shown that the 2014 Summit features speakers Kevin Sabet and Eric Martin, the same speakers who were clearly urging no votes on legalization at the 2012 Summit. Sabet went so far as to say to the Summit audience, “Is the right to get high and buy legal pot worth the risk to kids in the form of greater addiction and learning deficits, the risk to society to have another legal entity advertising an addictive substance, and the risk to our economy in the form of greater safety and health costs (like car crashes, the cost to health care, and the costs of a newly regulated system)?”

But now we have evidence that the official spokesperson for the No on 91 campaign, Mandi Puckett, has been using her position as a substance abuse prevention counselor for Descutes County, Oregon, to campaign against the current legalization initiative and the initiative that failed in 2012. She has been coordinating and promoting the supposedly “educational” Summit on taxpayer time while simultaneously working as the No on 91 spokesperson and, apparently, the spokesperson for the Oregon chapter of Kevin Sabet’s Project SAM — a national anti-legalization propaganda organization.

In an official response to Rep. Blumenauer’s call for federal investigation into Oregon Marijuana Election Shenanigans, Puckett explained, “My job was to help apply for State and Federal grants and work with the local coalition to use that money to educate people about the dangers of using addictive substances,” apparently only in the years when marijuana legalization is on the ballot.

The document further explains, “On August 21st, Puckett took a leave of absence from her substance abuse prevention job to work on the No on 91 campaign,” telling us that perhaps she understands she’s not supposed to be campaigning on the taxpayers’ time. But Puckett was working hard to promote the No on 91 agenda well prior to stepping down at Deschutes County.

On May 28, 2014, the meeting agenda for the Jefferson County Prevention Task Force, held during normal working hours, showed the following entries:

-Prevention website services needed – Mandi

-SAM Affiliate report – Mandi

-Planning Committee for Fall conference in Madras & Oregon Education Tour – Mandi

-Save the Date for October 1 & 2, 2014 – Mandi

Puckett and No on 91 make no attempt to camouflage that involvement. “This educational summit in Madras, the accompanying tour of Oregon cities, including the timing of the events, has been in planning stages for nearly two years (Fall of 2012 to Spring of 2014 to be exact), long before Measure 91 was on the ballot.”

So if the event is merely “educational,” why did the planning that began in Fall 2012, following the previous Summit that was openly lobbying against legalization, not aim for 2013 and instead aimed for 2014? Claiming they planned “long before Measure 91 was on the ballot” is disingenuous when after the defeat of Measure 80 in November 2012, ABC News was reporting that Measure 80 proponent “Paul Stanford, for his part, has vowed to push the law again in 2014, unless the state legislature passes it first.” In March of 2013, The Oregonian reported “[Anthony] Johnson said the coalition would seek to place an initiative on the November 2014 ballot.”

On July 19-20, 2014, Sabet’s Project SAM held a national summit in Florida that was being promoted by Puckett and BestCare. We are investigating whether Puckett and other state prevention staff were in attendance, where Kevin Sabet’s opening plenary detailed:

-What are our messages in 2014?

-Where are we with Alaska and Oregon, and beyond?

-What are the 3 key issues you need to know this year?

-What should every affiliate be doing in 2014?

The SAM Summit also featured representatives of the Colorado and Washington SAM Chapters who are also listed as presenters at the 2014 Oregon Summit.  Those representatives at the SAM Summit explained the “Overall picture in Colorado and how you can use this in your community” and “the status of legalization in Washington and what lessons can be brought to your community.”  Those presentations were followed by “How You Can Put a Group Together to Counter Marijuana Ballot and Legislative Measures” that was delivered by “Reps from Oregon, Alaska, SAM Affiliates and Board”.  We will find out who those Oregon reps were.

If one of those reps was Mandi Puckett, they must have informed her to be very careful about the appearance of electioneering at the Summit. As Puckett explained, “Later when it was announced the measure would be on the November ballot, we took extra steps to include in our work plan and advise presenters to not speak about the ballot measure.”

Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles, Oregon, also tried to paint the Summit as merely educational. “These summits have been held over the years to help educate about the harm that marijuana, drugs and alcohol can have on youth. I went to one or two in Jefferson County a couple of years ago, long before a ballot measure proposing to legalize recreational marijuana was created.” But that “couple of years ago” was 2012, when a “measure proposing to legalize recreational marijuana” was already on the ballot! One of my listeners, an attorney from Bend, Oregon, attended the 2012 Summit and told me the whole thing was “incredibly political” and that speakers routinely exhorted the audience to vote “No” on Measure 80 and to spread that message to their friends and family.

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