A Brief Post-Mortem of New Approach Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Initiative Petition Campaign

I’ve had a lot of people ask me why the New Approach Missourimedical marijuana campaign failed this year despite spending $2 million and having 4 years to organize. In a nutshell:

1. New Approach Missouri was really a promotional vehicle for founders Leah and Travis Maurer who used the organization’s connections to interested donors to solicit funds for commercial projects which didn’t exist. Investors are out about a million dollars and one of them, Randy Quast from Oregon, is suing in civil court. NAM claims that the Maurer’s involvement with the campaign ended in November 2015, but this is an outright lie, as NAM director John Payne continued to serve two masters with his concurrent employment through the Maurer’s Missouri front company “Missourians for Growth”. Google: Maurer Quast marijuana
2. The Maurer’s focus on soliciting investors took precedence over any reasonable organizational or campaign strategy. Because they had no interest in anything but finding money for their personal interests, the Maurers prevented NAM from 1) mobilizing grassroots and 2) starting signature collection until February 2016, which we now know was too late.
3. The NAM board proved it was supremely incompetent: NAM President Lee Winters said publicly to the Springfield News-Leader that he had “no idea” that elected officials like prosecutors would mount any kind of organized opposition. If you’re running a $2 million campaign you should make basic investments in political intelligence.
4. Legendary activist/attorney Dan Viets proved that he had no ability to guide the organization and even protect his friends from the Maurers’ fraudulent schemes. Viets continues to make the case that no one could have prevented this from happening and that the board wasn’t accidentally or directly complicit, which is ridiculous for anyone with intimate knowledge of the board’s doings. While I continue to believe Dan is a good man and a great advocate, I have lost faith in his ability to guide the next reform campaign in this state.
5. After Leah Maurer was formally removed from the organization the rapacious culture of “pay-to-play” continued to drive NAM decisionmaking. Board members Lee Winters and Mike Kielty and staffers Trish and Daryl Bertrand spent more time lining up investors as privileged licensee clients than they did making sure the campaign hit basic signature collection thresholds. 

In conclusion, the fact that Missouri isn’t going to vote on medical marijuana in 6 days has a lot more to do with greed, criminal activity, and outright incompetence than anyone associated with NAM is willing to admit. For these reasons, I’m boycotting the NAM-dominated cannabis conference in Columbia on Nov. 12 and advising donors to stay far away from everyone named in this post.

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