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.
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.
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:
“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.
“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 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:
“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.