California Mayoral Candidate Admits Cops Pay For Pot Initiative Smears

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In a shocking development in California’s campaign to legalize marijuana, The Leaf Online has reported that a California mayoral candidate with deep ties to the medical marijuana industry admits that law enforcement is paying him to publicly lie about Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Kevin P. Saunders is currently running for mayor of Marina, California. He is also the owner of Coasterdam, an online cannabis collective and medical marijuana dispensary.

But lately, Saunders has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of Prop 64. On October 5th, I traveled to Sacramento for a debate to join two other panelists supporting Prop 64. Saunders was one of three medical marijuana activists at the statehouse calling for the defeat of legalization.  Joining Saunders on the keep-prohibition side was Sean Kiernan, who recently stood on a stage supporting Kevin Sabet, the number one enemy of medical marijuana and marijuana legalization in the nation.

Who else could be a secret beneficiary of law enforcement spending on agent provocateurs?

During the debate, Saunders said, “My name is Kevin Saunders; it’s not Kevin Sabet.” But thanks to a couple of Facebook posts captured and delivered to The Leaf Online, we’ve discovered Saunders and Sabet are quite alike. Both take money from law enforcement to spread lies and misinformation about marijuana legalization.

Yesterday, legalization activists who post at FriendsOfProp64.org published a collection of meme graphics that supporters can share through their social media. The post included this graphic featuring a quote from Senator Bernie Sanders about California’s legalization while he was campaigning in Vallejo for the Democratic nomination for President back in May:

Bernie Sanders for Prop 64
Bernie Sanders is clearly in support of California’s Prop 64.

“If I were a citizen of California,” Sanders told the crowd in Vallejo on May 18, “I would vote to legalize marijuana.” Senator Sanders later re-iterated his support for Prop 64 in San Jose, as reported by the Sacramento Bee as “Bernie Sanders endorses California marijuana initiative“. ”I do not live in California,” the Bee quoted Sanders as saying at the San Jose rally. “But if I lived in California, I would vote ‘yes’ to legalize marijuana.”

In response, Saunders crudely marked up the Bernie Sanders meme to attribute a false quote to the senator meant to dissuade his progressive supporters from voting yes on Prop 64.

Saunders Fake Bernie Meme
Kevin Saunders makes up a fake quote from Bernie Sanders and uses this lie to try to “move the numbers a percent or two” against Prop 64 in an image he posted to his official mayoral campaign’s Facebook page. (Image: Elect As Mayor Kevin P. Saunders on Facebook)

“If I were a citizen of California,” Saunders’ mendacious quote claims Senator Sanders said, “I would never vote for a marijuana monopoly.” Saunders even leaves the attribution to Sanders’ speech in Vallejo on May 18, 2016. Of course, Sanders never said any such thing, not just in Vallejo that day, but anywhere, ever. The only thing Google returns for “bernie sanders marijuana monopoly” are reports from November 4, 2015, when he introduced a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition, because Tom Angell from Marijuana Majority was quoted in the stories referring to the failed Ohio “marijuana monopoly” legalization initiative, Issue 3.

That lie of a quote was noticed on Facebook by a commenter named Todd GreenStone. Referring to Saunders, GreenStone writes, “That is total bullshit dude! He said the opposite.”

Saunders Paid Shill
Kevin Saunders, candidate for mayor of Marina, California, admits the “job” he’s “paid to do” is to post this “devastating” lie in order to “move the numbers a percent or two” against Prop 64. (Image courtesy of The Leaf Online)

Saunders then defends his made-up lie of a quote by saying, “It’s a wobbler at best.” A “wobbler” in California legal parlance is a crime that can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor at the discretion of the prosecutor. Later, when GreenStone points out that Sanders told people to vote yes, Saunders replies, “not exactly.” So Saunders is trying to say Sanders’ words in Vallejo on May 18 are somehow open to interpretations that include Saunders’ misquote. Listen for yourself; this is the full context of Sanders’ quote concerning marijuana (begins at 29:20 on the video):

“Right now, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug. Together, we’re going to take marijuana out of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Over the last thirty years, millions of Americans have received police records for possession of marijuana. That is why, if I were a citizen of California, I would vote to legalize marijuana.” — Bernie Sanders, Vallejo, May 18, 2016

It might be fair to critique the pro-Prop 64 meme for adding a bit to Sanders’ quote; he did not say “There will be an item on your ballot in November” and did not add “that ballot item”. But both of those do comport with the context of Sanders’ speech, as Prop 64 had made the ballot by May 18. Sanders’ “vote to legalize marijuana” could only be for the Prop 64 on the same ballot as he’d hoped his name would appear for president. Trying to twist any of that quote to mean that Sanders wasn’t referring to Prop 64 or was in any way calling it a “marijuana monopoly” isn’t a “wobbler”, it’s more properly called “a lie”.

But Saunders doesn’t even try to stick with his “wobbler” defense. In the very next line, he tells GreenStone, “But it’s also political funny season,” seemingly a confession to knowing his meme is disingenuous at best. Then Saunders drops the bombshell, adding, “It’s a devastating meme and will move the numbers [against Prop 64] a percent or two. And that’s all I need to win this [election] and do the job I was paid to do.

GreenStone asks Saunders to clarify that statement by asking if Saunders was “on the payroll to spread lies?” In what appears to be another post, Saunders re-posts the Sanders meme with the lie and addresses GreenStone’s concern:

Saunders Paid Shill Proof
Saunders explains how “DAs, Chiefs, and powers-that-be” put him in charge of these anti-Prop 64 lies and are “paying well”. (Image courtesy of The Leaf Online)

I get paid to win! And that’s what I’m doing! The DAs , Chiefs and ‘powers that be’ have put me ‘out front’ and are paying well during the last push. They also put me in charge of the October Surprise. In this case, it’s gonna be a November one” — Kevin P. Saunders

It’s no surprise that law enforcement would pay people to spread disinformation about a legalization initiative that would devastate their ability to make easy arrests that begin with the smell of marijuana, What is surprising is that someone who claims to be an advocate for marijuana reform and a candidate for mayor would stoop to using Bernie Sanders’ good name among progressives in a lie. Though it is funny that after so many times his fellow Stoners Against Legalization have accused me of being a “paid shill” to “tell lies about Prop 64”, it’s actually one of theirs who’s the paid shill telling the lies about Prop 64.

8 Comments
  1. Fungi Sclerotia 1427 says

    Kevin P. Saunders should be, (“shall” would be better!),
    forbidden to hold / run for ANY government office,
    as a consequence of deliberately misquoting Bernie Sanders on Prop 64…!

  2. hppyhippi says

    Legalization is not on the ballot, Prop 64 is just more rules and restrictions that will result in more people being busted for violating them. Many of these rules will be made up later, by a yet not appointed regulator, who will decide what kind of vehicle pot can be transported in, and who is qualified to drive this as yet unknown vehicle!!! Wow, don’t like my old car, dude? How about FU and NO on Prop 64. Instead, we should just let everyone write their own recommendation under prop 215, recognize cannabis as being, in part, an over the counter drug, and forbid bans or taxes on cannabis. Easy, only three sentences needed.

    1. Patrick McCartney says

      Adult users don’t need permission from medical activists before enjoying the benefits of a legal marketplace. Law enforcement disemboweled 215; it doesn’t even protect qualified patients from arrest and prosecution.

  3. jontomas says

    Nonsense. – These are the same absurd predictions of doom we heard from the greedy sellers against legalization (GSAL) in every state that has had a legalization initiative. – The fact is, Prop 64 is similar to the legalization already achieved in the four Free States (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska), and better in some ways.

    Quit trying to fool consumers into voting against their own freedom.

    1. Fungi Sclerotia 1427 says

      “The fact is,
      Prop 64 is similar to the legalization already
      achieved in the four Free States
      (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska),…”

      …and also, the nation’s capitol, Washington D.C.
      [This should be just cause for federal re-legalization in itself!
      Passage of Cali’s Prop 64 will also greatly hasten that eventuality! :-]

      1. jontomas says

        Right. – I didn’t include D.C. because they are not a state and because they have incomplete legalization. You can possess and grow small amounts, but stores and sales are still prohibited. – I’m sure they’ll get there soon.

        1. Fungi Sclerotia 1427 says

          Yes, that’s true,
          D.C. is technically a “district” rather than a “state”.

          However…
          Which is more “free”?

          Washington state?
          (permits retail sales but
          disallows home growing, [except for med]),
          or
          Washington D.C?
          (disallows retail sales, [except for med],
          but permits home growing).

          They’re like reverse images of one another…
          They both have incomplete legalization.

  4. jontomas says

    Excellent, Russ. – I can’t wait for Saunders’ and the police “November Surprise.” – I’ll have a quick surprise back for them.

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