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Anti-Cannabis Leader Resigns Over Controversial Tweets About Orlando Massacre

June 17, 2016

UPDATE, June 17, 2016: Effective immediately, Randy Philbrick, the SAM Oregon leader who tweeted the controversial comment, has stepped down from his role at the organization. Project SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet confirmed the news to Leafly. Read Philbrick’s resignation email below.


Original post, published June 14, 2016:

It’s an exchange of Twitter barbs that might be dubbed a “dustup” if 49 people weren’t dead.

In the wake of Sunday’s tragic shooting rampage at a popular gay night club in Orlando, an anti-cannabis group saw an opportunity to score political points. Responding to an Oregon congressman’s tweet expressing his condolences, the group, SAM Oregon, lashed out at the congressman for supporting legal cannabis.

Nothing like the shameless exploitation of a hateful act to win over hearts and minds.

Cannabis advocate Russ Belville caught the exchange and followed it blow-by-blow.

For his part, Rep. Earl Blumenauer shot back at SAM Oregon that the public health threat posed by guns far outweighs any danger posed by cannabis:

SAM Oregon is the state arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national group that, according to its mission statement, “neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana.” (No clear word on how the group feels about making heartless comparisons to mass shootings.) Portlander Randy Philbrick leads the local affiliate, while prohibitionist Kevin Sabet — dubbed by Rolling Stone as legalization’s “biggest enemy” — co-founded the national group.

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For a group so apparently concerned with public welfare, SAM Oregon’s boldness was read widely as insensitive and out-of-touch. The tiff quickly drew in other voices from the cannabis community, including Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell as well as lawyer and former Law Enforcement Against Prohibition organizer Shaleen Title.

Others replied less diplomatically.

How does SAM Oregon feel about the whole thing? Once again, we go to Twitter (although the tweet has now been deleted):

So there.

UPDATE: SAM Oregon leader Randy Philbrick turned in his resignation on Friday, effective immediately. Here’s a copy of his statement to Kevin Sabet, the authenticity of which Sabet confirmed via email:

SAM Oregon resignation email from Randy Philbrick to Kevin Sabet. Obtained by Leafly.

Via Twitter, Philbrick told Leafly News that while he’s left SAM, he’s committed to continuing the fight against legalization:

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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