As you’ve probably heard, the state of Oregon will be host this November to a vote on the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana. What you might not know about, however, is the scandal that has developed in recent weeks surrounding a politically-driven “educational tour,” to be hosted by the opposition of Oregon’s legalization initiative, in the weeks prior to the election.
The politically-driven tour, though its organizers claim it would be purely educational in nature, would be paid for in part out of the taxpayers’ pockets, which is a big no-no in our legal system. “Federal taxpayer dollars should not be used to influence an election,” explains Peter Zuckerman, spokesman for Oregon’s marijuana legalization campaign. “Calling this an educational campaign is ridiculous.”
The tour was set to kick off at the start of October with a summit in Madras and then, over the next week, would visit the following major cities: Bend, Salem, Clackamas, Tigard, Corvallis, Eugene, Roseburg, Grants Pass, Ontario, Lagrande, Hood River, and Astoria. The tour would feature Clatsop County’s District Attorney Josh Marquis, the self-appointed spokesman for Oregon’s legalization-opposition movement, and anti-legalization pundit Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug adviser who actively opposes marijuana’s legalization
Oregon news publication Willamette Week broke the scandal about the “educational tour’s” financing:
The education tour is funded through a federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant, administered through the same office for which Sabet worked. It’s not clear yet how much taxpayer money will be spent on the tour. Planners say each county will foot the bill separately. The Jefferson County portion of the tour, for example, will run about $15,000 for a two-day conference, half of which will be dedicated specifically to marijuana.
Following this development, the Oregonian has since reported that BestCare Treatment Practices, one organization sponsoring the tour, allegedly cancelled the initial Madras summit, admitting that “from an outside perspective… it could look like a conflict.” Marijuana advocates have expressed gratitude over this admission, but are still calling for the entire tour to be cancelled or at least postponed until after the election.
Most recently, however, the scandal sparked Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer to write a letter to Washington D.C., requesting an official investigation into the potential use of public funds for political purposes. Rep. Blumenauer is regularly championed as a proponent for marijuana legalization and other progressive issues in Oregon, and offers a compelling case for investigation.
Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation
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