Updated Dec. 24: We previously reported on Nov. 19 that Marijuana Policy Project cofounder Rob Kampia had been demoted from executive director, a title he held for 22 years, and instead named the Washington, D.C.-based organization’s director of strategic development. He was supposed to remain on the board of directors. But, as we expected, this turned out to be a ruse. In a media advisory, dated Dec. 23, Kampia “announced the formation of the Marijuana Leadership Campaign,” his new reform group. He’s no longer employed by the MPP or on its board.
The shakeup continues a trend among the leadership of drug policy reform organizations. In July, the Drug Policy Alliance announced that Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno would succeed Ethan Nadelmann. In November 2016, Erik Altieri took the helm of NORML from Allen St. Pierre. Matthew Schweich will serve as the MPP’s interim executive director until a permanent replacement is found.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time on Capitol Hill to help craft and pass the best possible legalization law nationally,” Kampia stated in November when the change was first announced. “I also want to focus on legalizing marijuana in three of the ten most populous states—Texas, New Yor and Michigan.”
At the time, MPP board member Troy Dayton explained: “Shortly after Election Day, Rob quickly shifted gears to start the Michigan 2018 legalization campaign. With the Michigan signature drive now complete, it’s the right time to shift Rob’s focus to new and bigger projects.”
MPP communications manager Morgan Fox chimed in, telling Freedom Leaf: “Drug policy reform has grown up a lot in the last 20 years. A lot of the leaders that have been so instrumental to the movement are getting older and might want to work on other projects. There are plenty of people willing to get involved and take on the mantle in this mission. We’ve got a lot of talent to choose from.”
The timing of the leadership change has raised eyebrows in marijuana media circles. Kampia was charged with sexual harassment by MPP employees in January 2010 and suspended for three months while he went to therapy, but then was reinstated. “It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Kampia’s soft departure comes in the midst of America’s public reckoning with sexual harassment,” Leafly pointed out.
“It seemed like an attempt to get ahead of the story,” observed Freedom Leaf editor-in-chief Steve Bloom, who led a boycott against MPP in 2011 for hosting parties at the Playboy Mansion. The boycott took place just a year and half after Kampia was suspended. “He should’ve known better. It showed that his attitude towards women hadn’t significantly changed.”
As increasing numbers of high-profile men are suffering the consequences of sexual-harassment allegations, past accusations are resurfacing with a renewed significance. On Dec. 19, Washington City Paper reported that there was “an alleged incident involving Kampia and an intoxicated female employee at Kampia’s home the night of MPP’s 2014 holiday party.”
The allegations of Kampia’s workplace improprieties, as detailed in the Washington City Paper in 2010 after he was suspended, included him dating a 19-year-old intern, telling a staffer she would be “hotter with a boob job” and constant suggestive talk in the office. The story culminated with what he described as “consensual sex” with an employee, who received a settlement. MPP department heads lobbied for him to step down at the time. Instead, Kampia agreed to “get therapy for his attitudes toward women,” the Washington Post reported. In the recent City Paper article, Kampia “disputes allegations of sexual misconduct in 2009.” calling it a “relationship dispute.”
Initially, Fox said Kampia’s demotion was “something that the leadership has been discussing really since the 2016 campaigns,” and denied it had anything to do with the broader conversation of sexual harassment. “To my knowledge, there have been any allegations against him since 2010.” That last statement has been proven false.
In the advisory, Kampia said he plans to “target state and federal marijuana laws,” with focuses on Texas, South Carolina and Michigan. He claims to have received “nearly $500,000 in seed money provided by a marijuana investment firm in Los Angeles, a major marijuana dispensary in Colorado, rich friends in Texas and a coalition of new donors in South Carolina.
Kampia also muses about “writing a book that provides an insider’s look at the marijuana legalization movement.”
The Boston Globe is currently researching an article about Kampia. This likely figured into his sudden departure from from the MPP.
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