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Oregon Pot “Education” Was Planned to Torpedo Marijuana

Russ Belville

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The opponents of Oregon’s Measure 91, an initiative to tax and regulate marijuana, have been insisting since summer that the so-called Oregon Marijuana Education Summit & Tour, starring “the quarterback of the anti-legalization movement,” Kevin Sabet, was an annual October event designed simply to educate Oregonians about the dangers of marijuana. In no way was it timed just before ballots are mailed out to spread scare stories about marijuana to depress support for Measure 91, they told 420Radio.

The folks at 420RADIO have caught them in their lie.

“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,” wrote Mandi Puckett in a September 5, 2014 No on 91 press release. Puckett was a drug prevention coordinator for BestCare, the rehab organization that pulled $15,000 of its funding the Summit & Tour once our attention this issue went public, who is now the ‘No on 91’ campaign director.

The federal grants that BestCare and other state drug prevention groups use are earmarked for drug education. However, there are very strict regulations forbidding that money from being used to influence an election. Under Oregon law, that does not have to be explicit “Vote No on Measure 91” language; if an event clearly intends to sway an election, it’s political, not educational.

“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,” explains Puckett’s press release. In October of 2012, they held a similar Summit & Tour starring Kevin Sabet and there just happened to be Measure 80 on the ballot, our failed 2012 attempt to legalize marijuana.

Materials and eyewitness accounts to 420RADIO tell us that the 2012 event was openly political, with speakers warning attendees not to vote for Measure 80. Somehow, they were able to put that October 2012 event on after four months of planning, but the event for 2014 required two years of planning?  Or was it that everyone paying attention to the politics knew that Oregon was definitely going to have legalization on the ballot in 2014… because there didn’t seem to be any planning for a 2013 Summit & Tour that never happened.

Unfortunately the Measure 80 campaign never recognized these political shenanigans at the time for what they were – illegal electioneering with public money. But as a more astute Measure 91 campaign complained about this Summit & Tour, Puckett in her press release began trying to cover it up.  “Later when it was announced the measure would be on the November ballot,” Puckett wrote, “we took extra steps to include in our work plan and advise presenters to not speak about the ballot measure. Our goal was to educate, not lobby.”

In our investigation, 420RADIO has uncovered an email from Mandi Puckett, dated August 29, 2012, sent to Jefferson County District Attorney Steven LeRiche, entitled “Invite to speak at Statewide Marijuana Summit,” which reads in part, “Our educational event is intentionally planned at this time as Measure 80 is on the November ballot to legalize marijuana. Ballots go out the week of our summit. Our intent is not to tell people how to vote as it is to educate people and let them decide.”

That, folks, is the smoking gun proving Mandi Puckett, Steven LeRiche, and everyone involved in the 2012 Summit & Tour knew they were securing public money to put on a political event to affect the legalization election.  And they were doing it again in 2014 until we began shining a light on their activities with a crowd-funded Open Records Request.

As early as May 2014, Mandi Puckett was representing herself and BestCare as the “Oregon SAM Affiliate,” meaning a state chapter of Kevin Sabet’s national Project SAM organization. In July 2014, “reps from Oregon SAM” presented the topic “How You Can Put a Group Together to Counter Marijuana Ballot and Legislative Measures” at the national Project SAM Summit in Florida.  Part of their materials included “Strategizer 31,” a booklet from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America explaining how to push the limits on electioneering with federal funds.  On August 21, 2014, Puckett was taking her leave of absence from BestCare, just coincidentally on the same day The Oregonian ran their story on BestCare pulling their $15,000 funding for the Summit & Tour.

So, once you untangle this web, what you’re left with is this:

  1.  Mandi Puckett combats legalization in Oregon in 2012 using BestCare’s federal funds in a clearly political “educational” Summit & Tour  starring Kevin Sabet;
  2.  Oregon legalization loses, but all observers guarantee there will be legalization attempted in Oregon for 2014;
  3. Kevin Sabet forms Project SAM in November 2012 to combat legalization nationwide;
  4. 2013 passes with neither legalization on the ballot nor an “educational” Summit & Tour in October;
  5. Kevin Sabet recruits Mandi Puckett and BestCare to be their Oregon SAM  affiliate sometime before May 2014;
  6. Oregon SAM presents at Kevin Sabet’s Project SAM event in July 2014 on how to combat legalization in Oregon;
  7. Oregon SAM plans to use BestCare’s federal funds  to pay Kevin Sabet for a thirteen city tour, for which Sabet is asking $3,000 per city, just prior to ballots being mailed out for 2014 legalization in Oregon;
  8. BestCare’s Oregon SAM head Mandi Puckett leaves BestCare to head the No on 91 campaign to combat legalization in Oregon, just as BestCare pulls their $15,000 of public money on August 21.
  9.   Oregon SAM helps re-organize the 2014 Summit & Tour after BestCare drops out, thanks to a $15,000 gift from the Oregon Sheriff’s Association  and at least $2,000 raised between 10 am and 2 pm on Friday, August 22, by DA Steven LeRiche  from his office using county email and collecting donations from other DAs from their offices and county emails.

Wow, teaching people how to secure government grant money to pay yourself $39,000 to “educate” them?  That’s one hell of a racket Kevin Sabet has figured out, huh?

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