THE BLOG
10/07/2014 08:57 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Oregon Drug Abuse Officials Wanted To Pay Legalization Opponent Over $40,000 With Public Money

I've concluded my last of seven stops following Kevin Sabet around Oregon as he performed a so-called "educational" tour two weeks prior to the mailing of ballots in Oregon that include marijuana legalization.  It appears more than ever that county drug prevention staff and district attorneys were trying to secure over $40,000 in federal anti-drug education grant money to pay Kevin Sabet for what was clearly a political event to lobby voters against Measure 91.

This is an email and an attachment dated June 12, 2014 that I have uncovered with the help of Jennifer Alexander as part of my records requests to Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis.  It is from BestCare Prevention's Mandi Puckett, who is now on a leave of absence to act as director of the No on Measure 91 campaign.

06-12-2014 FW_ Oregon Marijuana Citizen Forums

In it, we learn that for every stop Kevin Sabet made on the Marijuana and our Youth "education" tour, he was paid $3,000 plus hotels, meals, and travel.

Attachment 4118_001

That's $21,000 for three days in Oregon at seven cities.  Plus (working to confirm all these) three flights (from his home in Florida to Portland, from Medford to Boise for the Day Two/Three leg to Ontario*, and Portland back to Florida), two rental cars (he had one for Portland to Grants Pass, would have had to turn it in at Medford, then would have had to pick up another one in Boise for the trip back through Ontario to Portland, and hotels in at least Roseburg, Boise, and Portland, and per diem for three days.

Now, keep in mind that BestCare is Mandi Puckett's employer, whose director pulled out their $15,000 when I and others focused scrutiny on their use of federal grant funds.  Before we did so, the tour was to be thirteen cities, which would have been $39,000 plus four more days of rental cars and hotels and meals expensed.  Also recall: they did run this same summit and tour in 2012 with Kevin Sabet and made no attempt to either pull their federal money from funding it or to conceal its clear anti-Measure 80 messaging (and some of the materials created there were distributed at the Hood River event).  (Oddly, there was no "annual" October summit and tour in 2013, when legalization was not on the ballot.)

And that would have been paid for partially or perhaps mostly by federal drug education grant money.  It is also notable the BestCare is listed as the "Oregon SAM affiliate" - Project SAM is Kevin Sabet's national anti-legalization think-tank that uses brochures from CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) to teach local drug educators how they can best lobby against legalization without running afoul of the laws prohibiting lobbying with government money.

OK, maybe that's just unwise spending, but is it actionable?  Wait until you see the video I unpack from these events where it could not be clearer that it is an event meant to depress support for Measure 91 and sell Kevin Sabet's book.  It includes me being threatened with expulsion and getting towed if I didn't remove my Yes on 91 banner from my car, me being shouted at by the Malheur DA in Ontario when I dared to calmly express some facts from Colorado's legalization that weren't being mentioned by Sabet, and mostly-empty auditoriums where audiences were about 30 to 60 people, and that's if I include the law enforcement, district attorneys, and professional rehab people in the audience.

Meanwhile, for comparison's sake, at five of the seven events was Eric Martin, who is a drug and alcohol addiction expert from the state of Oregon who teaches at U of O.  He's also the current Policy & Legislative Liaison (and former executive director) of the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon (ACCBO). ACCBO is the state organization that provides certification services to addiction professionals in Oregon**. His expense was $200 per event.  He's also a self-described thirty-year recovering marijuana addict.

So... an Oregon former pot addict / UO professor / drug expert is worth 15 times less for an "educational" forum on marijuana than a Floridian former adviser to the Drug Czar who heads the nation's anti-legalization strategy think tank and colludes with local drug prevention staff to secure drug education grant money to pay himself $7,000 per day plus expenses?  Their spending priorities seem to indicate the political nature of the event to me.

But at least maybe 300 attendees statewide (if I include uniformed law enforcement, district attorneys, and rehab pros) got to enjoy an extremely disjointed PowerPoint chock full of:
  • cherry-picked data (e.g., Colorado drivers in fatal wrecks with THC in blood have tripled, but no mention of overall traffic fatalities falling, mentions of increased daily use by teens without mentioning decreased monthly teen usage overall),
  • correlation-not-causation (look how the more people smoked pot, the lower income, educational, employment attainment, and life satisfaction they had... that couldn't be because getting caught for pot means the end of your job or scholarship and potential incarceration, could it?),
  • non-sequiturs (how many people in the audience regularly attend the national conference of the American Medical Association?),
  • tortured metaphors (People say marijuana's safer than alcohol, but drinking, smoking, and marijuana are all bad; it's like asking should I jump from the 10th floor, the 7th floor, or the 3rd floor... When people defend the THC chocolate bar the kid gets into by saying, 'vodka looks like water and a kid could into that if you left it out', that's like saying because my taillight is broken, I should go break my headlight, too.),
  • self-contradiction (I really don't like comparing one drug to another... then rattles off statistics on alcohol and tobacco use to dissuade marijuana legalization.  I don't really have a problem with a fifty-year-old guy who wants to smoke and grow pot in his basement... so he remains punishable by the law),
  • No True Scotsmen (I believe marijuana has medicinal properties, but why can't we treat it like we treat all other medicines, with standardized doses and consistency - like how the aspirin you buy in Hawaii's the same as the aspirin in Connecticut.),
  • Strawmen (People say that marijuana is harmless and non-addictive...),
  • and plain old whoppers (chart showing average marijuana THC potency 1960-1980 ranging from 0.2% to 1.0%, when THC wasn't even discovered until 1964... saying "the industry" in Colorado reacted to Levi Thamba's tragic death by saying "he should have cut the bar into sixteen pieces", when, in fact, the industry worked quickly and decisively with the state regulators to craft stricted dosage and labeling regulations, as well as a high-profile educational campaign on edible moderation... talking about teenagers who supposedly tell him they're better drivers when high because they drive 30MPH in a 65MPH freeway... saying Cheech & Chong could have never imagined the hash oil of today... so many...)

*  Sabet told me this when I asked about the drive from Grants Pass to Ontario, since I had to do that drive.

** Thanks to Doug McVay of Drug Policy Facts for this info.