High Times reports that Rob Kampia, co-founder and executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, has stepped down "temporarily, and possibly indefinitely," in the wake of a scandal involving inappropriate sexual remarks and conduct. Last week the magazine broke the story of the scandal with an online article by David Bienenstock and Richard Cusick that quoted several staffers who resigned from MPP in protest of Kampia's behavior and the organization's tolerance of it. Which explains the mass email message I got a while back from Bruce Mirken, then MPP's communications director, announcing that he was moving on to new challenges. Mirken, who had worked for the group for eight years, tells High Times:
None of us who left MPP over its handling of this incident take any pleasure in this situation. MPP is an important organization, whose work literally saves lives, which means it's critical that MPP's board use this period to take a thorough, fearless look at the whole sequence of events, including both the August incident and the way it was handled, and act to preserve the organization's integrity.
According to The Washington Post, the "August incident" involved sex (entirely consensual, by Kampia's account) with a female employee after a staff happy hour at the Union Pub in Washington. After that incident, High Times reports, MPP's department heads unanimously recommended that Kampia step down. They saw it as just the latest example of Kampia's "hypersexualized" behavior (as Kampia himself described it to the Post). Chief of Staff Alison Green reported in a subsequent email message obtained by High Times that Kampia had responded to their concerns by warning that "if he left, [major funding] would leave with him, which would have a crippling effect of its own (presumably causing layoffs in numbers that would equal or exceed the number of people who would leave if he stays)." Green later reconsidered her support for the department heads' recommendation.
The Post says Kampia is "taking a three-month medical leave…to get therapy for his attitudes toward women." Peter Lewis, MPP's main financial backer and chairman of its board, "said Kampia was 'encouraged' to take the leave and his return is subject to 'convincing the board he has dealt with his issues.'"
Since I see a lot of value in MPP's work, I pretty much agree with Mirken's assessment of the situation, but I thought the news would of interest to our readers, more because of the drugs than because of the sex. As High Times notes, "MPP is the best-funded national organization working for marijuana legalization in the United States, with a yearly operating budget of $6 million."