The Sexist

“The Breast Massage Will Happen”: Inside the Culture of Sexual Harassment at the Marijuana Policy Project


For 15 years, Rob Kampia has served as executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a nonprofit group dedicated to the reform of marijuana laws. In that capacity, Kampia, 41, has pursued two goals. One is the steady advancement of the organization, which he founded out of his Adams Morgan home in 1995. And the other is cultivating an office environment suited to his sexual appetite. A brief inventory of Kampia’s knack for mixing business with pleasure:

  • In 2008, Kampia dated a 19-year-old MPP intern.
  • “How was the NORML Conference?” a staffer asked Kampia one year. Kampia replied, “I got laid.”
  • At a staff happy hour, Kampia guessed a female employee’s breast size and told her that she would be “hotter with a boob job.” (Kampia denies the conversation occurred).
  • Kampia made it known that a female employee’s dress had “made an impression on him.” Later, he directed her to leave some room in his schedule for “bone-girl,” a woman he was “trying to bone.” He also repeatedly informed her of his intentions to perform a “breast massage” on another woman.
  • At the conclusion of a staff happy hour last August, Kampia escorted a subordinate back to his home. The woman was so upset by what happened next that she refused to return to work at MPP ever again.

As office creeps go, in other words, Kampia can lay claim to being king of the water cooler. Kampia’s office politics hit the headlines this month with the announcement that he’d be stepping down to take at least a 90-day leave of absence in order to undergo therapy. “I just think I’m hypersexualized,” Kampia told the Washington Post. The coverage, accordingly, has focused on Kampia’s hands-on management techniques.

Less has been said about Kampia’s deputy, Alison Green. When Green, a longtime friend of Kampia’s, joined the organization six years ago, she brought along some serious management bona fides. Green, 36, writes a weekly online column about workplace issues at U.S. News & World Report. She started a blog called “Ask a Manager,” where she doles out workplace solutions to HR reps and low-level staffers alike. And she co-authored a book called Managing to Change the World, which MPP department heads were required to read in order to bring the organization in line with her philosophy.

How did a manager like Green deal with Kampia’s office conduct? By cleaning up after him.

Rob Kampia with chief of staff Alison Green

Case in point: In fall 2008, MPP’s director of membership, Salem Pearce, was rifling through some back e-mails of a recently fired female employee when she happened upon a past office flirtation: Kampia had sent an e-mail to the employee asking for her private e-mail address. “I discovered they had gone on a date and maybe more than one,” Pearce says. “I had known about how Rob acted toward women for a long time, but this is one instance where I had proof that he did it.” Pearce approached Green about the situation and told her it was a “problem,” and Green agreed to take the issue to Kampia.

Kampia and Pearce met. “You’re abusing your power,” Pearce recalls telling Kampia, adding that the 20-or-so females working at MPP are the only women “in the world that you can’t date.” In Pearce’s recollection, Kampia disagreed with that position. As for Green, Kampia’s input on the matter settled things. “Alison would always go and try to convince Rob,” says Pearce. “She did realize that it could be a problem, but she didn’t have the power to stop Rob’s libido.”

In Green’s view, Pearce’s concerns didn’t rise to the level of a “complaint” against Kampia. “I would not characterize that conversation as a complaint,” Green says. In fact, Green claims that she never received any complaints about Kampia’s sexual comments or behavior. “It was openly acknowledged in the office that many people on staff, including Rob, used crude sexual language in the office,” says Green. In her time at MPP, “I got some eye-rolling about Rob and others, but I never received a formal complaint.” As for Kampia’s pursuit of employees? “I call that terrible judgment,” Green says.

A formal complaint was hardly necessary to bring Kampia’s behavior to Green’s attention. The sexually loaded chatter—from Kampia as well as other MPPers—was hard to miss. “She was aware of it, for sure. Everyone was,” says Kampia. “You’d have to be blind and deaf not to notice it.” Green says that she approached Kampia with concerns about the inappropriate office environment “multiple times every year over six years,” but that Kampia “disagreed that it was something that required changing.” At one point, Kampia and Green even discussed instituting a sexual harassment policy at MPP, but Kampia ruled the possibility out. “I did discuss it with Alison,” says Kampia. “I thought it would be a bad idea at the time, because if we had a policy, two-thirds of the staff would have been in violation of it for their language and dating practices.” As executive director, Kampia was responsible for them all.

  • Rob Taylor

    Surprise! Grown men who get high are immature.

    Gee. Why do guys want drug legal anyway. Is it because life is so much better when you get high or is it because chicks who are high put out? Mull that one over stoner gals.

  • Patriarchy: Par for the Motherfucking Course

    So we're at 250 on this already so my comment will likely get lost in the mix but what the hell:

    As a radical who has had to work with and within the non-profit sector every now and then, this kind of thing happens on a constant basis.

    Most organizations like MPP are run by men and staffed by 20-something year old women and execs treating their hiring process like a speed dating game and their employees like a harem is only to be expected.

    Yet another reason why the non-profit industrial complex needs to die.

  • jsnsoc8

    @Rob Taylor

    For a smart, rational discussion of the issue so blatantly misrepresented in the media so far, please see

    Thank you, and have a nice day.

    PS I'm sorry you can't get laid. It's frustrating, huh.

  • @jsnsoc8

    Why are you saying that this has beem "blatantly misrepresented in the media?" Based on the reporting, everything seems factual. Maybe you don't like what is being reported but to say that it is "blatantly misrepresented" seems like a stretch.

  • latecomer

    Wow, it was fun reading through the comments on this page...I couldn't make it through all of 'Adam's prose (does that count as another 'attack', Adam?). I'm sorry but if he's not a professional PR hack then he's actually some kind of monomaniac. Can you imagine sharing dinner with this guy? No one could care so deeply about some issue unless they're keenly involved somehow...

  • TracyDC

    All I know is that MPP posts open staff positions on a regular basis. Too many for such a small organization. I've done a lot of project and temp work over the last several years, so I've been glued to and other nonprofit jobs sites. I decided long ago that MPP must be a miserable place to work if staff come and go that quickly.

  • Melanie Whitaker

    I've had the same type of activities to be true at almost all of my previous jobs. This is very commonplace.

  • NotWashington

    I know Rob. I've known him since before MPP. He's always tried to get women in bed, anyone he could find. He's insecure. He came to a fundraiser for our organization, and spent the whole time chasing my assistant who was half his age. It was terrible to watch.

    I hope he gets his sh*t together, but he needs to resign. MPP has to get another Director. And Alison, you need to get a life, sorry.

  • Justine

    And what does this have to do with legalizing medicinal or recreational cannabis? Nothing, just a smear campaign to detract and confuse voters.

  • RevelationJoe

    Two things seem quite clear to me.

    First, Adam IS obviously Rob Kampia.

    There isn't a PR hack in the world who would put in that kind of time. And only Kampia would have had both

    (a) a pro-Kampia outlook

    (b) an incredibly deep investment level in, and knowledge of, every tiny aspect of this story

    Adam/Kampia is scum. The end.

    Second: Alison Green appears to have pursued the classic tactic of building her career via sex (Kampia, and no doubt many others, just on the off chance that one day they would acquire some measure of wealth or fame).

    Then, once in a position of some authority, she began banging her subordinates (Bernath, at minimum).

    So I feel faintly sorry for Alison Green. Although manifestly a slut, she -- unlike Kampia -- is out of a job.

    And try to imagine what it must be like for her professional prospects for the rest of her life.

    If she applies for a job, her resume begins with "Chief of Staff at the Marijuana Policy Project" -- a title which does not inspire confidence.

    If she makes it past that hurdle, HR is bound to Google her along these lines:

    +"Alison Green" +MPP which point she appears to have been a spineless toady who shouted down her own best judgment and morals in order to endorse the ongoing career of a suspected rapist.

    I'd say karma has been served in her case already. It can only be a matter of time for Kampia as well.