Celebrity Buzz for Marijuana

Los Angeles Times; November 2, 2003

by Michael T. Jarvis


An intriguing item in the classifieds of the Hollywood Reporter read in part: "Celebrity outreach coordinator/firm in L.A. sought by Marijuana Policy Project."


The job's implied mix of pot and paparazzi sounds glamorous, but the Marijuana Policy Project quickly bursts the illusion that the job will go to some slacker who wants to get high and listen to Bob Marley.


"We're the corporate world of marijuana reform," says Chad Thevenot, director of grants and outreach for the MPP, which he calls the largest organization in the world devoted to changing marijuana laws. "It's outreach to celebrities to get them to speak out for marijuana policy reform."


Although Woody Harrelson or Snoop Dogg might come to mind, Thevenot says his organization is taking a broader approach. "It's not really targeted for one specific celebrity. There might be one prominent person who takes the lead, but it's also someone -- ideally in Los Angeles -- who can get involved in different types of projects or serve on an informal advisory board to endorse MPP's mission and policy reforms. We have a wide range of efforts from lobbying to public policy to coalition building to sign-on letters to commercial or Web site work. It's as much about raising funds as about raising the profile."


The MPP's employees are more corporate than counterculture, Thevenot says. "We're professionals and wear suits and ties, a bunch of wonks."


The staff has heard every sniping joke imaginable about weed, pot or smoke, but it doesn't faze them. Inevitably a politician who opposes MPP policy will say, "You must smoke pot," Thevenot says. But that same politician will be shocked after receiving 300 postcards from constituents on a policy issue like medical marijuana. Thevenot says his staff is circumspect. "Because of the stereotypes we're more fastidious than we have to be."