Amid Fed Funding Criticism, Anti-Pot Advocates Cancel Summit

Friday, 22 Aug 2014 04:42 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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A nonprofit group has canceled plans to host an anti-drug summit in Madras, Oregon after it was alleged that federal funds would be used to help pay for a prominent anti-legalization advocate to attend the event, reports The Oregonian. 

Objections to the event were raised by sponsors of Measure 91, the legalization initiative that will appear on the ballot in November, after the Willamette Week reported that Kevin Sabet, an adviser in the Office of National Drug Control Policy under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama., would be paid to attend. 

If approved by voters, the measure would legalize recreational marijuana for people ages 21 and older, and would allow them to possess up to eight ounces of "dried" marijuana and up to four plants, according to Ballotpedia.org. 

Organizers had stated they would not discuss the ballot measure at the summit, but legalization advocates still objected, in part because of Sabet's leadership of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

Along with former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Sabet founded SAM, which describes itself on its website as an alliance of organizations and individuals "dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy" and supports "an approach that neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana." 

Rick Treleaven, the organizer of the Madras summit, told The Oregonian that the decision to cancel the summit was made because he "could see from an outside perspective that it could look like a conflict."

Sabet had planned to attend several events at which marijuana legalization would be discussed, including the October 1-2 forum, "Oregon Marijuana, Alcohol, & Other Drugs Summit." He also was scheduled to make appearances at a series of other events in 12 other cities described as the "Oregon Marijuana Education Tour."

The education tour is funded through a federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant, according to the Willamette Week.

Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the campaign behind the marijuana legalization measure, told the Oregonian that even if participants at the summit adhered to their pledge not to discuss Measure 91, it reeked of electioneering using federal money.

"Federal taxpayer dollars should not be used to influence an election," he told the paper.

"Calling this an educational campaign is ridiculous."

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