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Marijuana Policy Project
The Marijuana Policy Project, or MPP is an organization in the United States "working to minimize the harm associated with marijuana". MPP advocates legalizing possession and sale of cannabis, arguing that a regulated marijuana industry would separate purchasers from the street market for cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, MPP's activities forced prohibitionists to expend unprecedented amounts of time and resources fighting legalization initiatives.
MPP founders Rob Kampia and Chuck Thomas originally worked at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. In 1995, Kampia was fired by NORML director Richard Cowan, who later accused him of being a narc. Using NORML's membership lists, Kampia and Thomas began assembling a parallel network of marijuana legalizers. On January 25, 1995, the two activists incorporated the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) as a not-for-profit organization in the District of Columbia. By 2003, MPP had grown to 11,000 members, becoming the largest cannabis reform group in the United States.
MPP, like many advocacy groups, is divided into two legal entities, one a lobbying group and the other a nonprofit. The nonprofit, dedicated to educational work, can accept tax-deductible donations, while the lobbying group can use its funds to directly influence politicians. The two groups share an office next door to the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. MPP is primarily funded by Progressive Corporation executive Peter Lewis.
Prominent VIP supporters
MPP's supporters include:
- TV host Montel Williams.
- Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.
- Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura.
- Actor Jack Black.
- Actor/singer Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.
- Comedian Bill Maher.
- Author Tom Robbins.
- Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow.
- Former Surgeon General of the United States Joycelyn Elders.
MPP's major project was Measure 9, a 2002 initiative in Nevada to legalize the possession of three ounces of marijuana by adults aged 21 or over and regulate cannabis sales through retail establishments. The proposed constitutional amendment would also have mandated penalties for underage smoking and smoking in motor vehicles, casinos, and other specified areas. Many marijuana advocates were not pleased with these clauses, which would have been difficult to change once engrafted in the state constitution. The measure failed, garnering only 39% of the vote. Previous legalization initiatives had failed by wider margins, but those campaigns were not as well-funded. MPP blamed the measure's failure on law enforcement officers illegally campaigning during working hours, and unlawful interference by the federal drug czar.
MPP tried again in 2004 to get a similar measure on the Nevada ballot, but failed. The petitioning effort was marked by numerous embarrassing snafus; for instance, a box of signed petitions was misplaced and did not reappear until after the deadline to turn in the signatures. Because the measure included mandatory minimum sentences for sale of cannabis to persons under 21, some reformers were happy it failed.
MPP has a history of not giving up easily in the face of obstacles. In 2002, the organization successfully challenged a decision by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics to bar Initiative 63, a medical marijuana petition, from the ballot. MPP was able to prove that it had, in fact, gathered enough signatures. However, a federal appeals court struck the measure from the ballot on unrelated grounds. Congress had already enacted a law that D.C. voters would not be allowed to legalize marijuana, but a district court had ruled the law unconstitutional. The appeals court reversed the ruling, killing Initiative 63.
War on Drug Czar
Deciding that government propaganda was a major obstacle to its ballot initiatives, MPP launched its "War on Drug Czar," filing numerous complaints against Office of National Drug Control Policy chief John P. Walters. In a December 5, 2002 Reuters article, Rob Kampia proclaimed, "We want him out of the picture. We want him excommunicated from the federal government forever".
The complaints, filed with state officials, focused on ONDCP leaders' visits to Alaska, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. Director John Walters travelled to Nevada and Oregon and Deputy Director Scott Burns travelled to Alaska and Montana to speak against marijuana reform initiatives. However, they did not file any campaign expense reports, which laws in those states require for persons or organizations spending money to either support or oppose ballot measures.
- Bonni, Joe: You Down With MPP?, Boston Weekly Dig, Feb. 11, 2003.
- Drug Policy Organizations, James S. Huggins' Refrigerator Door.
- D.C. Medical Marijuana Initiative, Marijuana Policy Project.
- Initiative Petition, A Marijuana Legalization Initiative State of Nevada, A Guide to Drug-Related State Ballot Initiatives, National Families in Action.
- Marijuana Policy Project Grows to 11,000 Members, Marijuana Policy Project, Jan. 9, 2003.
- Nevadans for Compassionate Use.
- Richard Lee's Oakland Initiative To Be On November Ballot, But MPP’s Nevada Initiative May Not Make It, And IT SHOULD NOT! Fiasco Embarrasses and Undermines Cannabis Movement With Mandatory Minimums!, The Marijuana News, June 29, 2004.
- Zwillich, Todd: Activists Accuse 'Drug Czar' of Illegal Campaigning, Reuters, Dec. 5, 2002.
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