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Oregon Marijuana “Education” Only Occurs When Marijuana’s On The Ballot


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My colleague Jennifer Alexander has been doing incredible work digging through the internet archives to expose so-called community education on marijuana for what is – blatant political propaganda funded by taxpayers to defeat marijuana legalization.

First, Jennifer uncovered the calendar of events for BestCare Treatment Services dating back to 2010.  Rick Treleaven of BestCare was quoted in The Oregonian as saying, “the summit has been held for several years in October” and never received any complaints.  This prompted me to investigate the 2012 Summit, as marijuana legalization was on the ballot in the form of Measure 80.

BestCare Events Calendar “marijuana” events only – from Internet Archive, dated August 2014:July 20, 2014
SAM Summit 8:30-4:30
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
(Preceding CADCA’s midyear
training) Registration $200.00

July 19, 2014
SAM (Smart Approaches
to Marijuana) Action Summit
7pm Dance & Reception

April 16, 2014
Marijuana Summit
Resort @ the Mountain

April 15, 2014
Marijuana Summit
Resort @ the Mountain

Oct 18, 2012 Time TBA
Statewide Marijuana Summit
Living Hope Christian Center
24 NE A Street
Madras, Oregon

Apr 17 & 18, 2012
Oregon Marijuana Summit
Welches, Oregon

Aug 17, 2010
Marijuana Training with Eric Martin
Location: Living Hope Christian Center
Click here for flyer

The funny thing is there was no 2013 Summit.  There wasn’t a 2011 Summit, either.  Back when Measure 74, our failed marijuana dispensaries initiative was on the ballot in 2010, there was “marijuana training”.  Searching for “marijuana” among the calendar of events BestCare had posted up until mid-August and including the scheduled October 2014 Summit, we find:

  • 2014:  Legalization on ballot = two Oregon marijuana summits, one national summit;
  • 2013:  Nothing on ballot = nothing on marijuana;
  • 2012:  Legalization on ballot = two Oregon marijuana summits;
  • 2011:  Nothing on ballot = nothing on marijuana;
  • 2010:  Dispensaries on ballot = one Oregon marijuana training.

We’ve already shown that the 2014 Summit features speakers Kevin Sabet and Eric Martin, the same speakers who were clearly urging no votes on legalization at the 2012 Summit.  Sabet went so far as to say to the Summit audience, ”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)?”

But now we have evidence that the official spokesperson for the No on 91 campaign, Mandi Puckett, has been using her position as a substance abuse prevention counselor for Descutes County, Oregon, to campaign against the current legalization initiative and the initiative that failed in 2012.  She has been coordinating and promoting the supposedly “educational” Summit on taxpayer time while simultaneously working as the No on 91 spokesperson and, apparently, the spokesperson for the Oregon chapter of Kevin Sabet’s Project SAM – a national anti-legalization propaganda organization.

In an official response to Rep. Blumenauer’s call for federal investigation into Oregon Marijuana Election Shenanigans, Puckett explained, “My job was to help apply for State and Federal grants and work with the local coalition to use that money to educate people about the dangers of using addictive substances,” apparently only in the years when marijuana legalization is on the ballot.

The document further explains, “On August 21st, Puckett took a leave of absence from her substance abuse prevention job to work on the No on 91 campaign,” telling us that perhaps she understands she’s not supposed to be campaigning on the taxpayers’ time.  But Puckett was working hard to promote the No on 91 agenda well prior to stepping down at Deschutes County.

On May 28, 2014, the meeting agenda for the Jefferson County Prevention Task Force, held during normal working hours, showed the following entries:

  • Prevention website services needed – Mandi
  • SAM Affiliate report – Mandi
  • Planning Committee for Fall conference in Madras & Oregon Education Tour – Mandi
  • Save the Date for October 1 & 2, 2014 – Mandi

Puckett and No on 91 make no attempt to camouflage that involvement.  ”This educational summit in Madras, the accompanying tour of Oregon cities, including the timing of the events, has been in planning stages for nearly two years (Fall of 2012 to Spring of 2014 to be exact), long before Measure 91 was on the ballot.”

So if the event is merely “educational”, why did the planning that began in Fall 2012, following the previous Summit that was openly lobbying against legalization, not aim for 2013 and instead aimed for 2014?  Claiming they planned “long before Measure 91 was on the ballot” is disingenuous when after the defeat of Measure 80 in November 2012, ABC News was reporting that Measure 80 proponent “Paul Stanford, for his part, has vowed to push the law again in 2014, unless the state legislature passes it first.”  In March of 2013, The Oregonian reported “[Anthony] Johnson said the coalition would seek to place an initiative on the November 2014 ballot.”

On July 19-20, 2014, Sabet’s Project SAM held a national summit in Florida that was being promoted by Puckett and BestCare.  We are investigating whether Puckett and other state prevention staff were in attendance, where Kevin Sabet’s opening plenary detailed:

  • What are our messages in 2014?
  • Where are we with Alaska and Oregon, and beyond?
  • What are the 3 key issues you need to know this year?
  • What should every affiliate be doing in 2014?

The SAM Summit also featured representatives of the Colorado and Washington SAM Chapters who are also listed as presenters at the 2014 Oregon Summit.  Those representatives at the SAM Summit explained the “Overall picture in Colorado and how you can use this in your community” and “the status of legalization in Washington and what lessons can be brought to your community.”  Those presentations were followed by “How You Can Put a Group Together to Counter Marijuana Ballot and Legislative Measures” that was delivered by “Reps from Oregon, Alaska, SAM Affiliates and Board”.  We will find out who those Oregon reps were.

If one of those reps was Mandi Puckett, they must have informed her to be very careful about the appearance of electioneering at the Summit.  As Puckett explained, “Later when it was announced the measure would be on the November ballot, we took extra steps to include in our work plan and advise presenters to not speak about the ballot measure.”

Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles, Oregon, also tried to paint the Summit as merely educational.  ”These summits have been held over the years to help educate about the harm that marijuana, drugs and alcohol can have on youth. I went to one or two in Jefferson County a couple of years ago, long before a ballot measure proposing to legalize recreational marijuana was created.”  But that “couple of years ago” was 2012, when a “measure proposing to legalize recreational marijuana” was already on the ballot!  One of my listeners, an attorney from Bend, Oregon, attended the 2012 Summit and told me the whole thing was “incredibly political” and that speakers routinely exhorted the audience to vote no on Measure 80 and to spread that message to their friends and family.


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. From what I’ve understood, the line is drawn between ordinary citizens and those in power, not between political affiliation. I personally know dozens of hardcore republicans that get high. When you think about it, legalization really SHOULD be a republican thing! Personal liberty, smaller govt, states rights, the list goes on. Likewise, you’d expect the dems to want to regulate and tax it to the point of being ridiculous because ‘we have to protect our children’ (same mantra they have when it comes to tobacco).

    But to those in power, it doesn’t matter what political affiliation they are, they are more than likely AGAINST legalization. Why? Because their ‘goto’ people are law enforcement officers and drug counselors, two groups who have a clear financial interest in keeping marijuana illegal. So if you’re a governor, it doesn’t matter whether you are democrat or republican, you’re 99% likely to be AGAINST legalization, because the people in your ear are doing everything they can to make sure ‘Big Marijuana’ isn’t handed on a plate to someone else. That’s THEIR JOB! Big Marijuana is alive and well, and it consists of police, drug counselors, prison guards, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and anyone else who’s paycheck includes monies paid to them for the work they do in Big Marijuana (aka, prohibition).

  2. The truth is-no matter how some try to make this a partisan issue…it isn’t. There are prohibitionists and legalization proponents from both sides in congress/state legislatures just as there are consumers and patients from both sides.
    We allow “them” to keep the great divide going on this matter. Cannabis may be the One social issue where we can all come together in agreement.
    imo, of course

  3. I don’t like republicans because they have their heads really far up their asses and are out of touch with reality. That is not only because they are Delusional christians but mostly because of it. They are a problem and not a solution to anything.

  4. Jennifer Alexander on

    Call it a personal bias, but I have to point this out.

    Lone Ranger, for the record, I am a registered Republican and the leading spokesperson against measure 91 is Josh Marquis who is a Democrat and I am 99% certain that Kevin Sabet is also a Democrat. Every time I encounter a “rabid” prohibitionist, they are almost certainly to be a Democrat – yet somehow they have convinced you that the Republicans are the “enemy” on this issue.

    There are both supporters and opposition in either party. The opposition in each party is sort of a different variety, however, in my experience.

    What I have mostly noticed is that most of the Republicans that oppose marijuana legalization do not do so with a vengeance, they simply oppose it and will vote no – but don’t really care how you vote so they aren’t largely campaigning against it. (Representative Andy Olson comes to mind for me as one example of this Republican opposition). Even when it is legal, this particular section of voters is still going to see marijuana use as wrong – because it is a moral argument, not a legal one – they aren’t suddenly going to think it is a “good idea” to use marijuana simply because the law allows it. Because it is a moral argument, they aren’t likely to push for legal restrictions later either (Republican belief being more of the idea of small government to protect personal liberty, even if that liberty is used in ways unseemly) – moral issues are more of a personal decision, although they are likely to support the restrictions if pushed to give a yea or nay, because it is “wrong” to do whatever it is so they will vote “opposed” to that “wrong” if asked their opinion. They aren’t as likely to be the ones fighting for it, though.

    On the other hand, the Democrats that oppose legalization do so on a different sort of moral premise – and treatment and prevention are wrapped up in that line of thinking (ie the Kevin Sabet’s of this conversation). It is all about protecting society and the poor addicted individuals from the wicked evils of marijuana (whether it be the “big money” boogie man behind marijuana legalization, or the fear of a “Big Tobacco” sort of marketing effort targeting kids, or the many supposed harms caused by using marijuana – its a very Democrat kind of stance of big government to protect the whole population at large, even at the risk of harming a few). They basically identify a boogie man (whether founded or not), and then offer the solution that is largely funded by government to “solve” that problem. The Democrat perspective believes that government is the solution to nearly every problem (at least stereotypically) – and thus, not only fights to sustain the laws surrounding prohibition of marijuana – but solves all the “ills” of marijuana use by creating even more government funded “solutions” – like the federal grants that fund these efforts.

    At least in the current argument – Republicans are not the enemy, and it would be wise not to paint them as such, but instead to talk with them about the “wrongs” of prohibition, because again, for them, it is moral questions you need to ask about to win their support.

  5. These repubs really like to smoke the manure, that they are trying to stuff down the throats of people who are vulnerable to having smoke blown up their rectums!

  6. I sure hope the Oregonian picks up this story. Good job Mr Belville.
    I think, at this point in time, this is the most important legalization ballot in the world.
    My best wishes to 420 radio, and the weed blog. You guys are true warriors of freedom.

  7. If only FL had their own Russ. I am sure taxpayers money is being spent there opposing the constitutional amendment.

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