Marijuana Movement Dodges Sexual Harassment Consequences
Recently, Marijuana Policy Project announced that their founding executive director, Rob Kampia, would be stepping down from his position, moving diagonally on the org chart to a new position created specifically for him, called “director of strategic development.”
Why do you suppose that happened? It’s not as if Kampia has failed in his leadership. The organization under his tenure has had a major influence, if not the primary influence, in the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes in at least half the states it has passed, as well as five of the eight adult-legal marijuana states. Kampia has also proven to be a successful fundraiser, keeping the organization well in the black for over two decades.
The answer can be found in an article from the Washington City Paper from 2010 entitled, “The Breast Massage Will Happen.” Details of a culture of rampant sexual harassment within MPP shocked the marijuana community and surprised the mainstream, culminating in a tale involving Kampia, engaged in after-hours drinking with staff, then deciding one female subordinate was too drunk to drive herself home, but not too drunk to consent to sex at his apartment.
Clearly, the diagonal move for Kampia within MPP is in reaction to the growing wave of powerful men being brought down for their sexual misconduct.
There was far less pressure in dealing with the issue of sexual harassment in 2010. Kampia explained away his behavior as brought on by his “hypersexuality.” While some staff and board members resigned over the reporting of these incidents, the remaining board allowed Kampia to keep his well-paid position, with only a three-month leave-of-absence for treatment of his “hypersexuality” required of him to return to his leadership role.
So, did it work? Did MPP fix its climate of sexual harassment; specifically, is Kampia no longer “hypersexual?”
Well, if it did work, moving Kampia out of the leadership position in the context of the recent sexual harassment wokeness suggests that MPP’s boards simply don’t want to have the subject of a seven-year-old scandal at the top of the org that they’d have to relitigate in the court of public opinion.
If it didn’t work, moving Kampia appears more like sweeping a sexual harassment problem under the rug.
At the time of Kampia’s scandal, the late Peter Lewis was still alive. Lewis, the Progressive Insurance billionaire, was one of three that were the major funders of marijuana reform non-profits. Lewis also carried the baggage of well-known sexual indiscretion, admitting “Intraoffice romances just happen and I’ve had them, both inappropriately and appropriately.”
Kampia’s and Lewis’s relationship was critical in the formation of MPP, which began when Kampia, then a staffer for NORML, along with another staffer, allegedly absconded with NORML’s mailing and donor lists. Lewis provided the funding necessary to get MPP off the ground.
So, in 2010 with the sexual scandal brewing around Kampia, it was made very clear that if Kampia disappeared, so would Lewis’s money, and MPP would be decimated, if not ended. No surprise, then, that Kampia’s ouster never happened and three months of therapy was deemed sufficient to address the scandal.
But now, in 2017, powerful men are getting their just desserts even years after their scandals. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is being pilloried for his predation on teen girls dating back to the early 1980s. Nobody contends that Moore is behaving that way now, or even beyond 1985, when he married his current wife that he scouted when she was a teen.
Moore may still win his election, as many Alabama voters think being a Democrat is worse than being a child molester. But for many other powerful men in comedy, news, politics, theater, cinema, tech, and business, the day of reckoning has meant losing their jobs.
Kampia, on the other hand, gets to keep everything about his job except its name and its exposure to the public. MPP gets to keep the money spigot flowing without having to be distracted by another high-profile public relations nightmare.
Why is there no hue and cry from the marijuana community about this? Have we decided that Kampia’s behavior was OK, because he’s one of us, he’s good at his job, and gosh, it happened so long ago? Did we collectively decide that three months of therapy for “hypersexuality” was punishment enough? Do we just not want to rock the boat by giving opponents of legalization something to attack us with when we’re on a roll?
Apparently, if you want to sexually harass women and keep your job, you’d better make sure your name isn’t at the top of a studio, a political campaign, a movie, a TV show, or a comedy album. Instead, make sure your name is at the top of a marijuana law reform non-profit.