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Radical Rant: Maurer Marijuana Money Mess Might Malign Missouri (Or, I’m Thankful for Legalization)

Russ Belville

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I find myself in the eye of a hurricane story that threatens multiple layers of marijuana business and activism here in Portland, Oregon, and possibly in the whole state of Missouri.

“Million-Dollar Fraud Lawsuit Shakes the State’s Pot Power Structure” reads the headline at Willamette Week. The article looks at the civil suit filed by Randy Quast, a millionaire businessman who transplanted to Portland from Minnesota, against Travis and Leah Maurer, marijuana activists who transplanted to Portland from Missouri and “masterminded” our legalization initiative.

At stake are allegations that the Maurers defrauded Quast by misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of Quast’s investment in a shared marijuana grow-and-dispensary business. Quast alleges that Travis Maurer then used the money to pay for the Maurers’ own bills and debts, as well as paying down debts for his other ventures, like The Weed Blog, a well-trafficked marijuana news source run by Jeff White and Chris Young.

White and Young are also suing Maurer in civil court for $51,000, for misappropriation of funds. And just this week, a third lawsuit emerged, by Whitsett Rice against Maurer for $125,000 over a loan Maurer stopped repaying.

The Weed Blog and the text messaging code 420420 are part of assets that Quast alleges Travis Maurer put up as part of their dealings. Quast now seeks those assets ,in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars unaccounted for in a grow that never existed and an empty dispensary that never opened.

But it gets worse. You can read it for yourself in the lawsuit.

Quast is also seeking a million dollars damages for defamation and slander from Travis Maurer. Quast alleges that Maurer told numerous people within the movement and industry that Quast was an alcoholic pedophile. Quast says he has an email from Maurer to White and Young saying Quast “is a fucked up drunk that likes little kids.”

So now the full disclosure: I personally know as friends and have benefited from the generosity of everybody in this story, with the exception of Whitsett Rice.

Randy Quast is not only the co-founder with me of the Portland chapter of NORML, he’s been the major funder of the organization. He'd done the same in co-founding Minnesota NORML and funding that organization. He’s donated tens of thousands of dollars to National NORML and sits on its board. He moved to Oregon for legalization, as living in Minneapolis with his conviction for felony possession of marijuana was becoming uncomfortable.

Additionally, Quast is my dear friend and diehard supporter. He’s covered the flight and hotel costs for numerous events I’ve covered, including the time he flew me out to Minneapolis to interview Sir Richard Branson. Remember that time I got busted for possession in Utah? Quast is the man who covered my assistant’s $4,000 bail.

Jeff White and Chris Young have been longtime supporters of my work as well. White has provided free server space and other tech support for my RadicalRuss.com and 420RADIO.org sites for years. Young has long promoted my writing on The Weed Blog, which has named me and Tom Angell of MarijuanaMajority.com the Co-Online Activists of the Year, three years running.

I’ve known Travis Maurer since my firing from NORML in May 2012. It was Maurer who bought me the first equipment I used to create National Cannabis Radio. He funded it for about three months, then I began self-funding it, and it evolved into 420RADIO. Maurer hired me for freelance writing gigs from time-to-time and let me use “text RUSS to 420420” as a promotional campaign. During the fight for Oregon legalization, Maurer introduced me to many people in the campaign.

So, as you can see, I’ve got more conflicts of interest than Bill Clinton taking a donation for Hillary’s presidential campaign from an attractive 25-year-old Syrian female gun lobbyist in a bikini. Speaking of awkward optics, it gets worse.

Nearly every picture running in the media of Travis Maurer features him wearing a Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) T-shirt. The DPA is at the forefront of legalization efforts and is a major contributor to the California Sean Parker Initiative. At last year’s International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington DC, DPAs asha bandele exhorted people to “text CLEMENCY to 420420” and lavished praise on Travis Maurer’s activism.

DPA head Ethan Nadelmann was also very complimentary about Travis Maurer’s contribution to legalizing Oregon at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. In print, Nadelmann called Maurer’s pitch for 2014 Oregon legalization “the best presentation I had ever seen a local activist provide about a potential ballot measure,” which convinced DPA to put $1.8 million into our successful campaign.

Maurer was brought to Oregon by Anthony Johnson, who you may remember was the chief petitioner of the Measure 91 legalization campaign for marijuana here in Oregon. Johnson encouraged Maurer to move out west when Maurer couldn’t find work back at home in Missouri, thanks to his felony conviction for growing commercial marijuana behind false walls in the home he shared with wife Leah and two young boys.

Speaking of Leah Maurer, she has since become the co-founder of the Portland, Oregon, chapter of Women Grow, the popular national business networking and activist group. Portland’s chapter is the largest and fastest-growing in the country. In her bio, she is still listed as the co-owner of The Weed Blog, which Quast alleges cannot be true, since the money used to buy the Maurers’ interest was actually Quast’s misappropriated money.

And speaking of Missouri, Quast alleges that Travis Maurer was using some of those grow-and-dispensary business funds towards the emerging campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri. That effort, New Approach Missouri, uses the same branding as Johnson’s Oregon campaign. That campaign is headed by Quast’s fellow National NORML board member and Missouri NORML head Dan Viets, who has worked with and praised Maurer’s involvement in legalization. Furthermore, Leah Maurer and Dan Viets share spots on the board of Show-Me Cannabis, the Missouri reform group supporting New Approach Missouri that Travis Maurer helped create.

So here I am, in the eye of the hurricane, and the only opinion I can muster is this: I am so thankful for marijuana legalization, because when the large-scale growers under prohibition are involved in million-dollar disputes, they don’t settle them in courtrooms.

(Photo Courtesy of YouTube)

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