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Marijuana Policy Project Begins Search For New Leader

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The U.S.’s largest marijuana legalization organization is launching a search process to find its next executive director on Wednesday, Marijuana Moment has exclusively learned.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has played a leading role in efforts to reform cannabis policies on the state and federal levels since 1995, was until late last year led by its founder, Rob Kampia.

But Kampia left the organization as greater attention was paid to past allegations of sexual misconduct against him amidst a national focus on workplace sexual harassment and abuse.

Rob Kampia Leaves Marijuana Policy Project

Kampia, for his part, denies that the split had anything to do with his behavior and that he simply wanted to pursue “new business opportunities.”

Now MPP, which has been led on a temporary basis by staffer Matthew Schweich, is looking for Kampia’s permanent replacement.

“Our ideal candidate does not necessarily have a background in marijuana. We are looking for political professionals with experience changing laws, such as a successful campaign manager with a winning track record or a former member of Congress or their staff,” Jeffrey Zucker, chair of MPP’s Board Search Committee, told Marijuana Moment. “But we do want someone with a strong personal commitment to marijuana policy reform, justice and personal liberty.”

The group said in a draft press release that the search will take about three months and will involve targeted outreach to “prominent figures in the fields of politics, social justice and business to ensure the most diverse and inclusive candidate pool possible.”

MPP is especially looking for candidates with political management, fundraising and advocacy experience.

“We are excited to launch this search,” Zucker said. “As a movement, we are close to ending marijuana prohibition in the United States. MPP will continue to play an important role, and we are seeking candidates with experience, expertise and passion for the issue.”

Schweich, the current executive director, will continue leading MPP until a successor is in place and will then focus his attention on the ballot initiative efforts the organization is leading this year, a return to his former role at the organization of leading state campaigns.

“It’s been a privilege to lead this exceptional staff,” he said in the release. “After November, I plan to pursue other opportunities in politics. But first, I want to assist the new executive director during their transition and then help finish what we started in Utah and Michigan. I think both of those ballot initiative campaigns are very important for our movement.”

Meanwhile, Kampia has started a new outfit, the Marijuana Leadership Campaign, which is focused on several of the same state and federal priorities MPP has been working on, leading to some concern that the two groups will compete for resources or duplicate efforts. Kampia has already hired at least one former MPP staffer to join him at the new organization.

See the job posting for the MPP executive director position below:

Job Posting: Executive Director

Lead the marijuana legalization movement.

Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the largest organization in the U.S. that’s focused solely on ending marijuana prohibition. The organization is hiring a new Executive Director for the first time since its founding in 1995. MPP works to create a nation where marijuana is legally regulated similarly to alcohol, marijuana education is honest and realistic, and treatment for problem marijuana users is non-coercive and geared toward reducing harm. Marijuana reform is one of the country’s most popular and bipartisan issues, with public support more than doubling over the last 20 years.

MPP has played a leading role in more than half of the current medical marijuana and adult use legalization laws in the country, and the Executive Director should be able to help the organization build on its history of concrete reforms. MPP is lobbying to regulate marijuana like alcohol via several state legislatures: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. In Michigan, MPP’s coalition is working to legalize and regulate marijuana by voter initiative in 2018. Meanwhile, MPP is also working with patient advocates to advance medical marijuana-related bills in several other states, including Kentucky and South Carolina, while supporting a medical marijuana ballot initiative in Utah. In Congress, MPP has already helped secured protection from federal law enforcement for medical marijuana patients and businesses in the 2018 spending bill and is increasingly lobbying for expanded reforms to banking, research, patient access, and criminal justice.

The Executive Director directly supervises the Chief of Staff and department heads, with responsibility for day-to-day decision-making for the organization. The position develops and implements the organization’s political strategy and goals in conjunction with the staff and Board of Directors. Fundraising is a major part of the job. The position is responsible for the financial stability of the organization and requires a substantial amount of time be dedicated to raising millions of dollars for the organization and campaigns.

Specific responsibilities of the position include, but are not limited to:

  • Leading efforts to change laws through political organizing, lobbying, and ballot initiatives.
  • Negotiating with a broad range of stakeholders with interests in policy outcomes.
  • Raising capital from high net worth individuals, companies, and foundations.
  • Creating and executing a fundraising plan with specific outreach goals, timelines, and prospect lists.
  • Managing staff and improving individuals’ effectiveness, productivity, and job satisfaction.
  • Fostering and maintaining a positive work environment for all staff.
  • Communicating with the media to shape public opinion.
  • Leading a diverse movement of passionate individuals and organizations with interests in public health and individual liberty.
  • Ideal candidate will have a track record for fundraising and a demonstrated ability to run a fast-paced, mission-driven organization of 20 or more employees with a primary focus on changing laws.

Additional qualifications:

  • Ten or more years in a professional capacity with increasing levels of responsibility, preferably in politics, public policy, fundraising, or organizational management
  • A track record of executive leadership in growing organizations
  • Excellence in verbal and written communication and interpersonal skills; ability to motivate teams and to participate in and facilitate group meetings
  • Experience in strategic planning and execution; knowledge of contracting, negotiating, and political deal-making
  • Ability to adapt and respond to a rapidly changing environment and to encourage and motivate others to do so
  • Interest in or personal commitment to marijuana policy reform and individual liberty

This position is required to work out of MPP’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, while also requiring frequent travel and hours commensurate with a C-level position. This position reports to the Board of Directors. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.

For confidential consideration, please send a cover letter, resume, and a list of professional references to [email protected]

Learn more about Marijuana Policy Project, our mission, our accomplishments, and our goals at www.mpp.org.

If you value staying updated on cannabis news, please start a monthly Patreon pledge to support Marijuana Moment!

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Business

Sen. Jeff Merkley “Disappointed” That Democrats Blocked His Marijuana Banking Amendment

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One of the U.S. Senate’s foremost champions for marijuana law reform says he is “disappointed” that fellow Democrats recently joined with Republicans in blocking his amendment to increase cannabis businesses’ access to banks.

Last month, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) offered a measure that would have shielded banks that open accounts for state-legal marijuana businesses from being punished by federal regulators for that activity even though cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

While the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved two similar amendments in previous years, the panel this time voted to table the measure with a bipartisan vote of 21 – 10, with ranking member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and other Democrats who normally support marijuana reform objecting on procedural grounds.

“I was disappointed,” Merkley said in an interview with BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith on Monday. “We had passed this twice before.”

“We need to establish banking for cannabis because a cash economy is an invitation to money laundering and theft and cheating your employees and cheating on your taxes [and] organized crime. All bad.”

“I accompanied the owner of a company who had $70,000 in his backpack to pay quarterly taxes,” Merkley recounted in response to the cannabis banking question on Monday, which was suggested to BuzzFeed by Marijuana Moment’s editor. “It’s so bizarre going down the freeway and talking about how they have to pay their employees in cash, have to pay their suppliers in cash. It’s a bad system.”

“Everyone should agree: States’ rights on this. Let the states have an electronic system to track what these businesses are doing, not billions of dollars floating around like this.”

Despite his disappointment with the measure being blocked, the Oregon Democrat, who is believed to be considering a 2020 presidential run, said that his colleagues “had a fair point to make on the policy front” in tabling the measure.

At the time, Leahy argued that spending bills such as the one before the committee should be kept “free of new controversial policy riders” and that a more appropriate forum would be an authorizing committee that sets banking laws.

“It wasn’t existing policy and therefore it was new policy,” Merkley acknowledged in the new interview.

But he pointed out that there are few other avenues available for senators to pursue the issue.

“Here’s the thing. Normally we could take these policy bills like I was putting forward [and] you could put it on the floor of the Senate as an amendment to something,” he said. “In 2017, outside of the budget process, not a single amendment was considered on the floor of the Senate… This is the end of the Senate really as a deliberative body on policy. So if you’re blocked in the Appropriations Committee, and you’re blocked on the floor, then it’s very hard to put ideas out there and say, ‘Hey vote on this. This matters.'”

The House Appropriations Committee also defeated a cannabis banking amendment last month.

See the video of Merkley’s remarks at about 19:15 into the clip below:

Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.

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Politics

County Officials From Across The U.S. Push Feds To Reform Marijuana Laws

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An organization representing the 3,069 county governments across the U.S. is calling on the federal government to allow states to legalize marijuana without interference.

“The federal government should largely be responsible for regulating and enforcing against illegal drug trafficking, while respecting states’ right to decriminalize cannabis under state law,” reads a new platform plank adopted on Monday by the National Association of Counties (NACo).

“NACo urges Congress to enact legislation that promotes the principles of federalism and local control of cannabis businesses with regard to medical and adult-use of cannabis under state law,” a related provision says. “Congress should allow and encourage state and local governments to enact and implement cannabis laws, regulations, and policies that appropriately control production, processing, sales, distribution and use, as well as promote public and consumer safety, should they choose to decriminalize and regulate cannabis under state law.”

The group is also calling on the federal government to make moves to expand banking access for marijuana businesses and broaden research on cannabis’s medical effects.

The county officials’ new stance is similar to resolutions adopted last month by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“The United States Conference of Mayors urges the White House, U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to immediately remove cannabis from the schedule of the CSA to enable U.S. federal banking regulators to permanently authorize financial institutions to provide services to commercial cannabis businesses, and increase the safety of the public,” one of the mayoral group’s positions says.

Mayors From Across U.S. Call On Feds To Deschedule Marijuana

Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new NACo marijuana positions below:

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Culture

Border Patrol Reflects On Feds’ Friendlier Historical Approach To Marijuana

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Canada’s decision to legalize marijuana nationwide has stoked concerns that its citizens traveling across the U.S. border will risk temporary detention or even permanent visitation bans if they fess up having ever consumed cannabis, or even working in the industry.

Enforcement officials have told reporters that there’s no travel policy change in light of Canada’s end of prohibition, emphasizing that it remains illegal to bring cannabis across the border under federal law. Violating the policy “could potentially result in seizure, fines, and apprehension,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a recent statement.

But let’s take you back to a simpler time, courtesy of CBP.

“Did You Know… Marijuana Was Once a Legal Cross-Border Import?”

That’s the title of a 2015 blog post published by the federal agency—which seems to have gone mostly unnoticed until now—recalls how cannabis was historically recognized as a legal import by the government.

“One hundred years ago, the federal government was not overly concerned with marijuana, the common name for the Cannabis sativa L. plant,” the feds’ post reads.

Through the mid-1930s, the plant flew under the government’s radar, despite the fact that “several state governments and other countries had banned the drug.”

“The U.S. government hesitated, in part because therapeutic uses of Cannabis were still being explored and American industry profited from commercial applications of hemp fiber, seeds and oil.”

That all changed in the decades to come—first with the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which imposed taxes and regulations on cannabis imports, cultivation, distribution and possession, and then with full prohibition under the Nixon administration.

Up until that point, the Customs Agency Service (later rebranded as CBP) didn’t put too much stock in pot. Just before the Marihuana Tax Act passed, the agency described its cannabis policy here:

“Marihuana may be cultivated or grown wild in almost any locality. Inasmuch as this drug is so readily obtained in the United States, it is not believed to be the subject of much organized smuggling from other countries.”

It seems like pretty basic supply and demand, but federal prohibition changed the equation. Suddenly, marijuana wasn’t “so readily obtained” in the country—and even simple possession carried serious criminal penalties—so the legal supply dried up. In the absence of legal access, criminal organizations swooped in to meet the demand for marijuana in the United States.

Ergo…

“Today, however, marijuana trafficking is a major concern of CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration,” CBP wrote. “Well over 3 million pounds of ‘pot’ were confiscated at our borders in 2011, making an impact on this multibillion-dollar illegal enterprise.”

The more you know!

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Here Are The DEA’s Newest Slang Terms for Marijuana: ‘Shoes,’ ‘My Brother’ And More

Photo courtesy of Gerald Nino, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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