Pubdate: Wed, 08 Apr 2015
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2015 The Arizona Republic
Author: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez


The director of a group behind an initiative to legalize pot in 
Arizona threatened to target the business affairs of a 
marijuana-dispensary medical director who joined a competing 
legalization effort, documents obtained by The Arizona Republic show.

Two groups have filed paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office 
to pursue initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana: the 
influential Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project and the 
newly created Arizonans for Responsible Legalization.

The conflict focuses on Gina Berman, medical director at the Giving 
Tree Wellness Center marijuana dispensary and an emergency-room 
physician. Berman worked with the Marijuana Policy Project's campaign 
committee before joining Arizonans for Responsible Legalization.

The documents shed light on conflicting philosophies behind the 
proposed ballot measures and offer insight into how the 2016 ballot 
initiatives may be pitched to Arizona voters.

In an e-mail to Berman late last month, Rob Kampia, co-founder and 
executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which has helped 
with legalization efforts in other states, expressed surprise at her departure.

"Obviously, I was shocked to learn that you formed a campaign 
committee to compete with your own campaign committee," Kampia wrote. 
He later added that if she filed a competing marijuana initiative 
with the secretary of state, "we will specifically launch a series of 
actions to harm your business, in the spirit of what social-justice 
movements do to boycott bad companies or bad business owners."

Kampia, who did not respond to The Republic's request to discuss the 
dispute, wrote in his e-mail the competing initiative would not 
affect his group's plans. He also said his group's retaliation would 
be completely legal.

"For example, I'm already budgeting ... $10,000 (as of Friday) to pay 
people for 1,000 hours of time to distribute literature outside of 
your front door, and the literature will not portray you in a kind 
way," Kampia's e-mail said. "We will not target any other 
dispensaries; we will only target you. (There are other legal actions 
I have planned, so please just assume that distributing literature 
will be one of four or five tactics to disrupt your business; again, 
this will all be legal)."

Berman, now chairwoman of the Arizonans for Responsible Legalization, 
responded and urged Kampia to "reconsider this path." She wrote that 
he should work with ARL to advance that group's marijuana legalization idea.

If Kampia pursues the threat, Berman wrote, "it is very likely that 
both MPP as an organization and you as an individual will be liable 
for tortuously interfering with business expectancies."

She warned that her group may also pursue legal claims against his if 
he retaliates.

The groups, she wrote, "disagreed on several" key points on the 
planned campaigns, most notably, the number of marijuana dispensaries 
that would be allowed to operate and home-grow provisions. Both 
groups are finalizing their initiatives.

Berman wrote that the Marijuana Policy Project has proposed that its 
legalization initiative allow "an unlimited number of marijuana 
dispensaries" throughout the state. Such a proposal would be bad, she 
wrote, because voters "do not support such a radical departure from 
current law."

"An incremental approach, that caps the number of dispensaries at or 
slightly above the current number of licensed dispensaries, is the 
only politically feasible approach," Berman wrote. She added that 
oversight and monitoring of an unlimited number of dispensaries by 
public officials would be impossible.

Berman also wrote that the Marijuana Policy Project had proposed "a 
dramatic deregulation of homegrown marijuana," but speculates that 
voters would not support that.

She wrote that it would be a mistake to have competing measures on 
the 2016 ballot because they would "inevitably dilute the financial 
resources available to the decriminalization effort in Arizona."

Marijuana Policy Project officials have said their initiative might 
be modeled after the marijuana program in Colorado, which was 
approved by voters and allows adults age 21 and older to use and 
possess up to an ounce of pot. The marijuana is purchased at 
marijuana shops allowed to operate under the law.

Such marijuana use remains illegal under the federal Controlled 
Substances Act, but in 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice said it 
would allow laws regulating recreational use of marijuana.

Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project communications director, 
declined to discuss Kampia's letter. However, he said, the group was 
disappointed that Berman left the group, saying "it came out of nowhere."

Arizona is among a couple dozen states and the District of Columbia 
that allow marijuana use for medicinal or recreational reasons. 
Arizona voters approved the use of medicinal marijuana in 2010 for 
conditions such as chronic pain and cancer, but the program didn't 
gain momentum until last year, when dispensaries began to open.

About 65,000 people participate in the program, and the state 
Department of Health Services, which oversees the program, has 
limited the number of dispensaries to 126 statewide.

In an April 1 e-mail to people involved in the effort, Kampia wrote 
Berman had "misstated the facts a few times recently" and said his 
group would push for an "unlimited number of retail licenses."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom