Marijuana education series featuring legalization opponent Kevin Sabet in flux again
The following is a piece for the Oregonian by Noelle Crombie, September 2, 2014. See the original piece here.
A Tigard drug abuse prevention official who was helping coordinate a marijuana education series said Tuesday that some locations may not host the event and that she is no longer organizing the series.
The series has been controversial from the start, with marijuana legalization proponents questioning the use of federal dollars to help pay for the kick-off session in Madras. The original sponsor backed out, prompting the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association to step forward last week with a $10,000 donation to keep the Madras event afloat. The association opposes legalization.
The Madras event will continue as planned, but Connie Ramaeker said each of the 12 other locations has decided to get its own speakers. The political backlash prompted some local organizers to reconsider whether to even host the event, she said.
Ramaeker, director of Tigard Turns the Tide, a drug prevention coalition, said there “could be quite a few sites” that will continue but she did not know how many.
“It’s unsure if we are going to even call it an Oregon marijuana education tour,” she said.
She said the supporters of Yes on 91, the marijuana legalization initiative, “threatened to come and lock arms at our locations and broadcast from our locations and make it political.”
“That is not the purpose at all for this whole tour,” she said. “Our purpose is to give honest, true facts and let the voters make their own decisions.”
Ramaeker said the Tigard event will continue, but it will be held at a different location. She does not know where it will be held yet.
She said Kevin Sabet, one of the country's most vocal opponents of marijuana legalization, has asked local organizers to let him know whether they will proceed within the week so he can make travel plans. Sabet was scheduled to be a headliner at each stop.
Russ Belville, a Portland-based host of a radio show that focuses on marijuana culture and politics, said Tuesday he plans to broadcast his show at whatever sites proceed with the event. He said Sabet's involvement, as well as that of others known for their opposition to legalization, support the idea that the event is a political one.
“If it is truly an educational event, I am not interested in shutting it down,” said Belville. “I am interested in getting people from the other side to be able to speak at it.”