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In 2012, Oregon Marijuana Education Summit Was Definitely Political


I have been reporting on the so-called Oregon Marijuana Education Summit & Tour starring anti-legalization leader Kevin Sabet or Project SAM.  With assistance from Jennifer Alexander and others, I have discovered that by multiple indications, the people promoting the Summit & Tour know full well it is a political event designed to oppose the Measure 91 marijuana legalization initiative.  Unfortunately for them, it appears as if they may have used taxpayer money and resources to promote and produce fliers for the event, violating the terms of their grants and state and federal election laws.

Their defense is that these events are merely to educate the public about the dangers of marijuana.  The fact that every invited speaker whose opinion is known is an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization is just coincidence.  The timing of the events in the week before Oregonians receive their ballots is simply happenstance.  After all, Rick Treleaven of BestCare Prevention, one of the prime sponsors, “has noted that the summit has been held for several years in October” and never received any complaints.

Oregon Marijuana Election Shenanigans, 2012

Oregon Marijuana Election Shenanigans, 2012

Oh, really?  Like, say, 2012, when Oregon was voting on a marijuana legalization initiative called Measure 80?

As the ballots for Measure 80 were being mailed out, BestCare Treatment Services was sending out “Save the Date” fliers for the October 18, 2012 “Statewide Marijuana Summit”, also to be held in Madras, Oregon, just like the current Summit.  Kevin Sabet was slated to be a featured speaker (though he wasn’t listed on the flier), just like the current summit.  Eric Martin was listed as a featured speaker, just like the current summit.  Shirley Morgan was listed as a speaker; her bio from a 2013 anti-legalization conference sponsored by the Coalition for a Drug-Free California and the Drug Free America Foundation explains her bona fides:

Ms. Morgan is also the founder for the Oregonian’s [sic]Against Legalization of Marijuana, a grassroots community group that was successful in November of 2004 and 2010 in Oregon defeating measures that would have required local government agencies to open pot dispensaries, and then again in November of 2012 defeating a measure that would have legalized marijuana.

This year, Rick Treleaven of BestCare explained that they pulled their $15,000 of government-grant money for the Summit because he “could see from an outside perspective that it could look like a conflict.”  If it’s a conflict now, with the speakers telling folks the Summit won’t be discussing Measure 91 a week before ballot mailing, why was it not a conflict in 2012 with Shirley Morgan and Kevin Sabet openly opposing Measure 80 at the Summit the week of ballot mailing?

Did $15,000 or more in federal grant money get used to promote and produce the 2012 Summit?  The flier indicates it is “Full day training (It’s Free!)”.  Does that indicate that in 2012, like this year, law enforcement professionals can earn their continuing education credits for attending?  The flier also adds, “Provided at Summit: FOOD, PRIZES, CHILDCARE, SPANISH TRANSLATION”, which certainly somebody paid for.

BestCare also worked with county drug prevention staff in Deschutes County to produce advertisements based on the education that was presented at the 2012 Summit.  The public was called upon to contact county staff on their county email addresses and phone lines to acquire radio and internet ads they could use to “provide factual information so that citizens can make informed health-related decisions based on credible data.”

“The information learned [at the Summit]became a catalyst” for the production of an educational brochure on marijuana facts that made no attempt to hide its anti-legalization political nature.  Included in the 4-page brochure:

2012 Summit - Kevin SabetWhat about marijuana legalization?  Advocates of marijuana claim legalizing it will result in economic revenue and reduced drug trafficking cartels. Research shows if legalized, marijuana use will go up resulting in more social costs to society.

Ultimately the question is this: “Is the right to get high and buy legal pot worth the risk to kids in the form of greater addiction and learning deficits, the risk to society to have another legal entity advertising an addictive substance, and the risk to our economy in the form of greater safety and health costs (like car crashes, the cost to health care, and the costs of a newly regulated system)?” [footnoted: Sabet, Kevin, Ph.D., 18 October 2012. Oregon Statewide Marijuana Summit.]

2012 Summit - Eric MartinWhat states have marijuana legalization ballot measures in 2012?  According to polls, of the three states with marijuana legalization ballot measures, Oregon is least likely to pass.  [includes table of Oregon’s Measure 80, Washington’s I-502, and Colorado’s Amendment 64 legalization proposals provided by Eric Martin]

How does the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program work?  Marijuana itself is not an approved medicine under the FDA’s scientific review process, yet 16 states & the District of Columbia have permitted marijuana to be sold as “medicine” for various conditions.

So Kevin Sabet was openly discussing what he imagined the pitfalls of marijuana legalization would be, Eric Martin was comparing and contrasting the three 2012 legalization proposals, and Shirley Morgan was leading Oregonians Against Legal Marijuana while speaking at the 2012 Summit, and BestCare and Jefferson County were sponsoring it, presumably with taxpayer money.  Only in 2014, when a better-funded and more-politically-savvy campaign complained about it, did Oregon officials recognize the Summit’s clear political intent, and only then did BestCare and others begin withdrawing their support.

Shall we look back to 2010 when Oregon had Measure 74, a medical marijuana dispensary initiative, on the ballot?

Deschutes 2012 BestCare Summit Flier


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Sabet’s not changed his shtick in years! He recites the exact same bullshit today that he he spewed in 2008. He KNOWS he’s reciting bullshit statistics and outright LIES to people’s faces. He’s DEFINITELY been using taxpayer money for his “educational tours”. I guarantee you that he’s done that in other states as well. I’m going to have to read AZ’S statutes on the use of State funds. He decided he was concerned about AZ in 2010 before we passed our medical marijuana law. I’m pretty sure he did the same thing here!

  2. There is no statute of limitations on misuse of government funds, go back as far as possible and make the haters REPAY all the misused funds out of their personal pockets(the usual course of action).

    The ‘old west days’ of spreading lies to the public are over. Anyone with half a brain can look up the truth within minutes.

    The prohibitches will try anything they can to promote their agenda, to bad for them that everyone else now knows better.

    Same thing happened during the repeal of alcohol prohibition, the difference this time is ease of access to the truth.

    In a few years there will still be folks on soapboxes wanting prohibition again and some areas like the Bible belt where they still have dry counties they may have dry and herb free counties!

    This certainly is an interesting time.

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