MPP chief ready to barter for marijuana campaign donations

(Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Rob Kampia courted alcohol and tobacco interests for campaign donations. He approached only tobacco business interests.)

Rob Kampia wants to make a deal with people or groups willing to donate money to his legalization efforts.

The executive director of Marijuana Policy Project, Kampia called Marijuana Business Daily on Thursday after reading an MJBizDaily story about negotiations in Michigan over a likely ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in the state.

He solicited tobacco business interests in Michigan in search of campaign donations to run what will likely be a multimillion-dollar, 19-month endeavor, but he said he was largely unsuccessful.

“It’s the kind of thing where I actually go out and I try to court well-funded constituencies and philanthropists, and say, ‘What do you want, what do you hate, what’s going to turn you off so I can’t actually ask you for money later,’ and sometimes you get so far as to say … ‘Is there something that we put something in here that would cause you to immediately escalate your commitment?'” Kampia explained.

There were “some tobacco people” who suggested they’d like to see a high threshold for the requirements for secure transporter licenses, which was one of the flashpoints of the Michigan negotiations.

Kampia said tobacco interests wanted to see a requirement applicants seeking to obtain a state-issued MJ transporter license must have some experience transporting cash. A version of that stipulation was included in an early draft of the proposed initiative.

“To go that (specific) would definitely require someone to have to donate more, and no one was willing to,” Kampia said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, does anyone want to give us $500,000 for an oligopoly?’ That’s sort of like asking for marriage on the first date. That’s more of what would have happened if the conversation had gone further.”

“Really the question …. that I personally posed was, ‘Do you people care enough about limiting the universe of who can drive marijuana around that you would actually be willing to donate substantially, if we narrowed the universe down from infinity to some smaller number?'” Kampia said. “And we got them interested, and that’s why we were talking more than just one time.

“But ultimately at the end of the day, to narrow the universe to start permanently favoring (specific business interests) … you have to give me a big dollar amount, or I’m not going to want to deal with it, because I’m going to get attacked by our allies. And then people were like, there’s not actually a dollar amount that makes sense for this.”

MPP secured a $50,000 donation from Wild Bill’s Tobacco, a chain of smoke shops involved in the Michigan negotiations. But that money, Kampia said, was “to keep our ears open” – not in exchange for any particular provision written into the ballot measure.