A retired art professor who donated more than $1.4 million in a failed effort to defeat marijuana legalization has come to the defense of Michigan police who arrested and jailed an 80-year-old grandmother for marijuana possession.
Julie Schauer’s political contributions to anti-legalization group SAM Action in 2016 were that organization’s main source of funding (and also led to fines from the California Fair Political Practices Commission, after the prohibitionist campaign committee failed to properly report her involvement). Schauer donated to the anti-legalization efforts in California, Massachusetts and Nevada that year, all of which ended up legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.
This week, Schauer argued that it was “not such a big deal” for 80-year-old Delores Saltzman—an arthritis sufferer who was arrested and jailed for possessing less than an eighth of an ounce of marijuana in June, after she let her medical cannabis card expire—to be incarcerated overnight.
A night in jail is not such a big deal. Michigan has been notoriously bad at regulation, and they’re trying hard to make up for it. No evidence that Michigan will know how to regulate with “full legalization.” MI has big problem w/BHO explosions
— Julie Schauer (@InAweofArt) August 7, 2018
Saltzman said the night behind bars aggravated her arthritis. Charges against the octogenarian great-grandmother were dropped earlier this month, and Saltzman is now a vocal supporter for a campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan.
The comment is consistent with Schauer’s regular output of anti-marijuana hysteria—she recently suggested that cannabis played a role in the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead—but it also marks a significant flip-flop.
Last year, when Schauer attempted to unsuccessfully challenge California’s campaign finance reporting fine against SAM Action, she claimed—inaccurately—that “no one ever goes to jail only for possessing small amounts of pot.”
This is messaging routinely used to downplay the importance of marijuana legalization—but, as Saltzman’s arrest demonstrated, it is not accurate.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, of the 8.2 million people arrested on marijuana charges between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for possession. And in 2016, police arrested more people for marijuana possession than they arrested for all violent crimes, including murder, rape, assault and arson, according to FBI statistics.
In her letter to California officials—dated April 20, 2017—Schauer also claimed to have a friend in the state “whose son… was killed by marijuana.”
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, “no death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.”
Schauer also blamed California for leading “the long-term disabling of so many youths through medical pot” and blamed the state’s election laws, which allow for transparency by publishing the names of donors, for “ruining my career.”
“My reputation as a teacher of 30 years is now tarnished and damaged so that I can never go back to teaching again,” she wrote. “Thank you, California, and thank you, marijuana activists and marijuana groups, for ruining my career and harming my reputation.”
Though some news organizations have investigated the source of Schauer’s money—a significant sum for anyone to contribute to a political cause, particularly for a self-described teacher—the source of her anti-cannabis fortune is not known.
Another anti-legalization nonprofit to which Schauer donated $200,000, called Strong Economy For Growth, paid Massachusetts $31,000 in fines for also failing to properly disclose its donors.
Schauer is one of handful of large donors to anti-legalization efforts. In nearly every ballot-initiative campaign where legalization was in play, fundraising in support of legalization has dwarfed spending in opposition.
That was not the case this year in Oklahoma’s medical cannabis ballot fight, however, but supporters prevailed nonetheless.