Marijuana Policy Project founder Rob Kampia is no longer employed by or serves on the board of the organization.
He is starting a new cannabis policy group called Marijuana Leadership Campaign (MLC), structured as a for-profit LLC consulting firm.
The new company “will focus almost exclusively on changing U.S. laws,” Kampia said in a relatively unusual memo shared with Marijuana Moment late Saturday night, which also says that the firm has lined up “nearly $500,000 in seed money” from “a marijuana investment firm in Los Angeles, a major marijuana dispensary in Colorado, Kampia’s wealthy friends in Texas (where he lives half-time) and a coalition of new donors in South Carolina.”
The split with MPP is occurring as greater attention is being paid to past allegations of sexual misconduct by Kampia amidst a national backlash against workplace sexual harassment and abuse.
In 2010, a lengthy Washington City Paper story reported that Kampia had sex with an intoxicated MPP employee, an incident after which a staff revolt nearly led to his ouster from the organization. He later took a leave of absence to seek therapy, telling the Washington Post that he was “hypersexualized.”
Now, Kampia’s departure from MPP comes as several sources tell Marijuana Moment that a major newspaper is working on a story about previously unreported allegations against the former executive director. It is unknown when that article will be published, but its existence has been an open secret in cannabis reform circles for weeks.
Formally leaving the organization is the second and final wave in Kampia’s diminishing role at MPP, which he co-founded in 1995.
In November, days before Thanksgiving, MPP announced that Kampia had stepped down from his role as executive director but would remain at the organization in a new capacity focused on fundraising and strategy.
The new memo, shared with Marijuana Moment just before midnight on the day before Christmas Eve, says that the first announcement “opened new business opportunities for Kampia” and that while he “initially proposed splitting his time equally between MPP and the new MLC, Kampia and his fellow MPP board members reached a second milestone by voting unanimously on Dec. 20 to end his full-time status at MPP this weekend.”
It was also revealed this week that Kampia is no longer a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s Advisory Council. Kampia said in an interview with Marijuana Moment on Sunday that he remains a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) board of directors.
The memo appears to lay out the case that Kampia’s departure from MPP has nothing to do with any old or new allegations of sexual misconduct, and he said in the interview that conversations among the organization’s board “about me shifting into lesser roles at MPP extend all the way back into late October.”
“We didn’t even talk about the s-word at all,” he said, referring to sex. “It wasn’t even on our minds, which I think was kind of naive of us given the stuff that’s happening with all of these celebrities.”
But Kampia acknowledged in the interview that he “did know that there was a story in the works somewhere” at the time he registered the domain name www.marijuanaleadershipcampaign.com on December 5.
“I didn’t know which publication. I didn’t know any of the questions. I didn’t know the name of the reporter. I didn’t know anything,” he said. “I just knew that people were sort of talking about how there’s a story in the works.”
Kampia has been a key architect of many of the most significant marijuana policy victories over the past two decades, and has arguably been the legalization movement’s best fundraiser.
In the memo, he says that MLC “will work alongside the institutions he views as most effective in each sector” of the movement and industry. While the document names MPP, NCIA and New Federalism Fund as “leading the charge,” and says that the new company will “provide substantial funding” for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Kampia said in the interview that he hasn’t “cleared the fact that I want to give them money” with those groups.
LEAP and DFCR did not respond to requests for comment.
The memo says Kampia will divide his time between work on Texas, South Carolina, Michigan and congressional cannabis policy reform efforts as well as “raising money to make MDMA (known as ‘Ecstasy’) available as a prescription medicine for the treatment of PTSD and end-of-life anxiety.”
He plans to raise more than $2 million in 2018 from steering committees comprised of donors contributing at least $100,000 each.
When asked if the investors who have already committed nearly half a million dollars to the new venture are aware of the looming newspaper story on sexual misconduct allegations, Kampia said that “they know about the worst allegations that have ever been made about me, and I have no reason to believe that the [newspaper] story will be worse than that, so these guys are friends of the family and they’re not going to be surprised by anything in the [newspaper] and in fact they might be pleasantly surprised.”
Several of the projects mentioned in the MLC document are campaigns that Kampia had been raising money to support through MPP, but he rejected the idea that his outside efforts would drain the nonprofit of resources.
“Are there people that want to fund Texas where they might otherwise be nervous about writing a check to MPP, where they might have to pay for payroll for Rhode Island, Vermont and the national operation?” he asked, suggesting that his new outfit would be “value-added” rather than competition.
“One thing for sure that no one would do if not for the fact that I’m going to agitate for it, is to take out Congressman Pete Sessions,” he said, referring to the Republican House Rules Committee chairman who has consistently blocked marijuana amendments from being voted on. “Take out, meaning not to date him,” he said, but to un-elect him.
In the memo, Kampia twice offers quotes that he suggests are in jest, at least in part.
In the first instance, he jokes that working full-time for nonprofit organizations is “a good way to avoid amassing wealth,” while working on marijuana policy reform through an LLC will allow him to form business relationships with for-profit institutions.
Kampia, who owns a Washington, D.C,. row house that he has often referred to as “The Purple Mansion,” dismissed concerns that people might take offense to his quip about amassing wealth.
“It depends on what your definition of wealth is. I don’t have cash,” he said in the interview. “All my money goes into my mortgage. So you could say that I have wealth or not, depending on your perspective. I don’t mind if that offends people or not, because socialists who are averse to wealth probably already hate me.”
He also “half-jokingly” wrote that he hopes “to be standing behind President Rand Paul during his bill-signing ceremony [for ‘the ultimate bill to legalize marijuana on the federal level’] in the White House in 2022.”
“I don’t think Trump is going to survive reelection,” he said when asked what Paul’s path to the presidency in the 2020 election would be. “I would like to see [Trump] impeached…and I think Mike Pence is tainted as a result of being in bed with Trump. So I think that you are going to see a bunch of challengers… Rand Paul was obviously my favorite candidate last time around and so I’m cheering him on. I don’t have any inside knowledge, though. I haven’t talked to him personally.”
The memo mentions Kampia’s holiday vacation plans in the Caribbean and says that when he returns to the country the new organization will hold a series of leadership meetings in Austin, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
He will also write a book that “provides an insider’s look at the marijuana-legalization movement.” He told Marijuana Moment that the working title is, “How We Legalized Marijuana.”
The memo offers a very specific account of the book’s progress to date.
“I’m particularly excited about writing my book, which will be nonfiction but will oftentimes read like fiction, as my life is strewn with outrageous experiences that are sometimes relevant to readers who have an interest in politics generally and marijuana policy specifically,” Kampia wrote. “The book is already one-eighth written, and I’m planning to spend my time in the Bahamas and other sunny islands writing another three- eighths of the book. In fact, one reason I’m leaving MPP is to write this book, with an aggressive book tour planned for the fall of 2018.”
An MPP communications staffer could not be reached for comment by publication time, but a board member who did not wish to be named said, “I can confirm that we have been negotiating his permanent separation from the org for weeks and that he is no longer conducting any MPP business.”
Read Kampia’s full three-page memo on the new firm below:
Photo courtesy of ReasonTV.
Voters In Key Congressional Districts Support Marijuana Legalization, Poll Says
With many key congressional races rated as “toss ups” by political observers, either major party could end up controlling of the U.S. House of Representatives after this November’s midterm elections.
A new poll identifies one thing that can help Republican or Democratic candidates come out ahead: Embracing marijuana legalization.
The polling firm Lake Research Partners surveyed 800 likely 2018 general election voters in 60 so-called “battleground districts,” finding that 60 percent support ending cannabis prohibition. Only 36 percent are opposed.
Medical marijuana is even more popular, with 79 percent of voters in these swing districts on board.
More to the point for politicians looking to win elections, the survey showed that 44 percent of battleground voters say they would be more more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legalization, including 26 percent who say they would be “much” more likely. Only 33 percent said they would be less likely to back a pro-legalization candidate.
The survey was conducted in February but is being released on Tuesday at Washington, D.C. event sponsored by MedMen Enterprises, a cannabis dispensary chain that commissioned the poll.
Another key finding is that 55 percent of voters say they would be “more likely” to vote if a marijuana initiative was on the ballot in their state.
The survey also tested the effectiveness of various arguments concerning legalization, determining that “the strongest pro-legalization message frame highlights how we need legalization to repair the financial and moral damage of the failed war on drugs,” according to a polling memo prepared by the firm.
Several other recent national polls have found majority support for marijuana legalization, but the new results narrowed down to key swing districts are likely to warrant special attention from candidates and political operatives.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
Congressional Committee Blocks Marijuana Votes (Again)
Lawmakers on a key congressional committee once again blocked colleagues in the full House from being able to vote on marijuana-related amendments.
One proposed measure, filed last week, would have allowed Washington, D.C. to legally tax and regulate retail marijuana sales and another would have prevented federal regulators from penalizing federal banks from working with businesses and individuals in the legal cannabis industry.
But on Monday evening, the Republican-controlled Rules Committee, led by Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), continued its recent tradition of preventing floor votes on any and all measures to scale back federal cannabis prohibition.
“Everyone who knows that Congress has a responsibility to at least debate these issues should unite and help Pete Sessions find another line of work,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who cosponsored both cannabis measures, told Marijuana Moment in a statement.
Sessions’s Texas district, which Hillary Clinton won in 2016, is currently considered a “toss up” by political analysts in this November’s midterm elections.
Before Monday, his panel had blocked at least 34 other cannabis-related amendments from reaching the floor for votes during the current Congress. The full House of Representatives has not been allowed to consider marijuana reform proposals since the spring of 2016.
Bipartisan groups of lawmakers cosponsored both new cannabis measures, which they were seeking to attach to legislation to fund parts of the federal government through Fiscal Year 2019.
(A third marijuana-related measure considered on Monday proposes shifting money away from forest and rangeland research toward “eradicating, enforcing, and remediating illegal marijuana grow operations on National Forest System land.” That measure was cleared for a floor vote, likely sometime this week.)
“Our federal laws are outdated. The people in this country want the law to treat marijuana as we do alcohol,” Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA), said in testimony about his marijuana banking amendment. “These large sums of cash make dispensaries an obvious target for robberies.”
He recounted the story of Travis Mason, a 24-year-old Marine veteran who was killed during a 2016 robbery at a Colorado marijuana dispensary where he was serving as a security guard.
“He managed to survive his service in the United States Marine Corps, but he didn’t survive his job guarding a store here at home,” Heck said.
“If we do nothing, this is bound to happen again.”
— Denny Heck (@RepDennyHeck) July 14, 2018
The D.C. measure was filed by Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia.
“This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs,” Norton said of current policy in her testimony before the Rules Committee. “For that reason, some refer to it as the ‘Drug Dealer Protection Act.’ As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is ‘a license for me to print money.’ Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control production, distribution, sales and revenues.”
Under a ballot measure approved by D.C. voters in 2014, low-level marijuana possession and home cultivation is legal. But because of an ongoing federal appropriations rider enacted in past years and included in the new FY19 bill, local officials have been prevented from adding a system of taxed and regulated cannabis sales.
Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), a member of the Rules Committee, specifically moved during the meeting Monday night to make the amendment on cannabis businesses’ access to banks in order for a floor vote, but that was defeated by a party-line vote of 8 – 2.
Last night the Rules Committee blocked an amendment I cosponsored w/ @RepDennyHeck to protect financial institutions working with legal cannabis businesses. @RepJaredPolis asked for a roll call vote and EVERY Republican present voted no. What are they afraid of? Let us vote! pic.twitter.com/YDmnousHki
— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) July 17, 2018
The marijuana banking measure had 22 cosponsors, more than any of the 276 other measures the Rules Committee considered this week. Eighty-seven amendments were cleared for floor consideration.
Sen. Jeff Merkley “Disappointed” That Democrats Blocked His Marijuana Banking Amendment
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.”
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) July 16, 2018
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:
— AM to DM by BuzzFeed News (@AM2DM) July 16, 2018
Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.