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Cannabis Cups Causing Controversy in Medical Marijuana States

Predictably, the trajectory towards more compassionate marijuana policies brings people out of the shadows to celebrate this unique and infinitely useful plant. Unlike other medicines, cannabis comes in a thousand forms and lends itself to inquiry and discussion comparable to that of music, art, food and wine. Mix in the fact that a lot of people are able to appreciate it openly for the first time in their lives and it should come as no surprise that they're organizing events to see who can grow the best stuff.

Such contests generated controversy this week, raising the question of whether medical marijuana patients might be enjoying their freedom at the expense of further political progress. In Colorado, an upcoming event prompted a critical editorial questioning whether a pot contest serves any legitimate medical purpose. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a similar event was shut down after law-enforcement officials questioned its legality due to the state's tight restrictions on distribution by caregivers. Despite overwhelming public support for medical marijuana, the idea of patients convening to consume large quantities of top-grade medicine seems a bit of a stretch for some observers.

Surely, we can expect more of this sort of thing, and I understand the enthusiasm for bringing together a community that's been forced underground for generations. But there's also a line that has to be drawn somewhere and those whose states are ahead of the curve should really consider the impact of their approach on those still fighting for reform elsewhere in the country. The example you set inevitably impacts the tone of the debates taking place elsewhere. The "lessons of California" have inspired much more restrictive approaches in subsequent medical marijuana states, resulting in fewer patients receiving the care and protection that they need. Yet the problem in California was never really the distribution of medicine to a large patient population, but rather the conspicuous magnitude of the cultural and industrial phenomenon that Prop. 215 became.

Obviously, to us at least, any difficulties adapting to the new reality of medical marijuana in America are to be blamed first and foremost on the drug war, the Feds, sometimes the press, and absolutely the local governments that failed to regulate the industry in the hope that it would just go away. But as decades of hysteria and injustice begin finally to subside, our work isn't necessarily going to get any easier. Pot-tasting parties are awesome, I'm sure, but they're awfully far removed from the professional advocacy that got us to this point and if they piss off even a few people, then maybe it's better to wait or just invite people you know.  

Marijuana remains illegal for healthy people everywhere in America, thus the examples set today by the medical marijuana community will inevitably shape the political landscape and determine the future of the movement for complete and permanent reform.
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excellent points

I'm all for setting the proper tone and example. So I find it odd that there has been no mention here or in other leading drug policy blogs on the MPP sex scandal.

Had a sex scandal erupted inside the ONDCP or one involving Calvina Fey (however improbable that would be), we'd be all over it like stink on shit.

Daniel Williams

Fair enough

I see your point, Dan. Honestly, I just don't know what to say about that.

From what I just read about it, it's not that big a deal

Sounds like someone needs a bit of an attitude adjustment, is on leave, and hopefully is getting the adjustment. Nothing underage (or close), nothing forced. These things are more of a big deal when politicians who parade the alleged moral superiority of their side (and their adherence to traditional sexual values) and attack the alleged moral deficiencies of their opponents get caught in them.


Mr Williams,

I really don't understand. The MPP people are not government employees, yet they are being held to standards that even the politicians or golf pros don't follow. It is really none of my business what the sex lives of any human being is about, other than my own. If they were spreading AIDS around, or something like that, there would be severe implications. Otherwise, we need to mind our own business!

Why is it that everyone and his brother jumps on this crap when it doesn't have a thing to do with the price of apples!

sometimes it is our business


You're correct to state that another's private and consensual sex life is none of our business, but incorrect to believe public organizations are not affected when the private becomes public. Golf may never recover from the Tiger Wood's scandal.

One recurring theme of drug policy reform has been to always take the high road, especially as our advocacy is of a delicate social nature. It is both personally and politically naive to believe the Rob Kampia sex scandal will not have a negative impact on MPP and, by extension, cast a pale over the entire drug policy reform movement.

Daniel Williams


to closed minded prudes! So much for liberty! It just seems like too much judgemental-ism. I don't think we should be jumping on the bandwagon to condemn another's sex life.

You are right, though. It is naive to expect our country to develop a citizenry that will mind their own business when they can condemn their neighbors! People are too damn judgmental, if you asked me. Even if they don't have all of the facts, they already KNOW what happened!

It reminds me of the attitude most, uninformed, people have when I tell them I am against drug prohibition. I am judged before the words get out of my mouth.

borden's picture

reasonable question

I'm not sure we would have been "all over it" if a controversy of this type had occurred within a drug warrior institution, and I like to think that we would not have. If we had, perhaps we'd be wrong to. Still, it's reasonable to ask why DRCNet has not written about the MPP situation -- we can't speak for others, only ourselves.

The main reasons are: 1) it's not a drug policy issue, it's a workplace conduct/human resources issue; 2) we don't know the details (as mlang pointed out); and 3) it's a complex area that lies outside our expertise. Another important reason is that I feel that almost anything we could put out there in the current environment would be doomed to add fuel to the many unverified speculations and accusations that have been posted by others, and the general confusion that has resulted. We didn't report on it when Peter Lewis first came on board with MPP to the tune of millions of dollars per year, even though that was a defining moment for the movement. Conversely I don't think it's obligatory for us to report on the current situation. Generally, the fact that there are news outlets reporting on something does not automatically make it reportable news for other outlets. Sorting through what is "news" for our publication's mission vs. a climate or appearance generated by what other media are doing can be a tricky thing.

My personal view is that our response in the movement should be to take the occasion to learn more about these issues, to review our own policies, improve them or adopt new ones, and assess whether we are living up to standards with regard to them. I have had conversations in general terms about the issues raised by the recent stories, and I have learned from them.

As far as MPP goes, that is up to the MPP leadership, and we have no influence over that. I tend to agree with newageblues -- no one has alleged anything criminal in what happened, and so I see the three-month suspension with evaluation as a fairly significant response by the organization. As a result, my instinct, right or wrong, is that it will not end up tarnishing the reputations involved in the rest of the movement -- let's hope I'm right. I hope it does not permanently tarnish MPP, but only time will tell. As far as what Rob may or may not deserve, I think it's safe to say that being paraded in the media in this way ought to satisfy any critic's desire to see consequences; he will be living with this to at least some extent for the rest of his life, regardless of what happens after the three months are done.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

I note that neither you nor Scott has blogged

on the LEAP controversy taking place over the dropping of the Keene LEO Brad Jardis from their organization, either. Have you anything new to report on that?

IMO, they should have ignored his statement and left well enough alone. Now, a LOT of people are wtihdrawing their financial and morale support from LEAP due to the action against Mr, Jardis.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Really simple, in my mind

The situation seems to be due to the fact that he said he would not enforce the law. (He should have kept his mouth shut and kept doing what he was doing, using his discretion to determine, who he would take in and who he would let walk, as is LEGAL.)

By claiming he, himself is above the law, it seems that it makes it difficult for LEAP to claim the high moral ground that they don't condone or encourage the use of drugs. I think their sanction of Mr Jardis will have little effect on the group, since they tend to be speaking to Rotarians and other such groups, on the opposite side of the drug war spectrum.

I think the guy is great, but I cannot find any fault in LEAP distancing themselves, from him.

borden's picture

wasn't aware


I was not aware of that situation until you read your comment. I believe that we reported on Brad Jardis, and I respect the courage he showed in taking on his department. Nevertheless, an internal organizational relationship like that is not of news interest to us.

LEAP's leaders, whether rightly or wrongly, feel that the kind of rhetoric Mr. Jardis was using would hurt their efforts. As at least one of the commenters on the discussion thread I found pointed out, it's their right to make that call. There are types of rhetoric that would make us uncomfortable too, and so we don't associate with every single reformer, though we associate with most reformers. Each organization has to decide where to draw their own lines.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Just curious, David

No need to names names if you don't want to, but what is it about some drug policy reformers that you find unworthy of association?

Daniel Williams

borden's picture

a couple of examples

There are people who talk about armed insurrection against the government. There's the guy mentioned in the post linked here -- we'd probably give him a chance as of now, but we'd need to feel confident that he was not going to do something like that again. Those are two examples that come to mind.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC


Those advocating armed insurrection in the name of drug policy are not reformers, they're idiots (and probably cowardly ones). So while I disagree with calling them drug policy reformers, I do agree we don't want any part of that action.

The Grinch with the strap-on is another story. Perhaps his biggest mistake was not devising his marketing plan before hitting the bong. But at least there were no reports of the Grinch slapping that strap-on up against any Grinchesses. Had he done so, I suspect he would not be proffered a second chance to sit at your table.

Daniel Williams

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