Disputes, Lawsuits, and Resignations are Redefining Travis Maurer
By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection
Travis Maurer came to Oregon from Missouri in 2010 to leave his home state for a new start where marijuana was legal. After being busted, SWAT-style, for growing some 400 plants in a state where local law enforcement is known for its disdain of marijuana, he convinced authorities to allow him to serve his five years probation in Oregon, where it’s legal to grow marijuana—the very crime he pleaded guilty to in Missouri.
After arriving, he became involved in the legalization movement and was inexplicably able to arrange for some major donors to fund legalization in Oregon. His effort was amazing, according to many, and it helped get Oregon’s Measure 91 on the ballot in 2014:
“It’s a personal mission, He believes in what he’s doing, he has a tremendous amount of energy, and he’s completely fearless,” said Steve DeAngelo, co-owner of Harborside Health in Oakland, California, in a Newsweek article in November.
“He’s one of the most positively persuasive people ever,” she says. “He’s a good motivator, and I don’t mean that in a bullshit way,” said Liz Kaufman, a veteran political strategist, also to Newsweek.
“[His] pitch for national backing was ‘the best presentation I had ever seen a local activist provide about a potential ballot measure,’” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance to the Columbia Tribune in July.
Though he got the ball rolling, for sure, all the heavy lifting in the coming months was done by a host of other individuals, including Anthony Johnson, the Chief Petitioner of Measure 91 and an old college friend of Travis’ who had moved to Oregon in 2004 from Missouri.
Maurer was content being in the background since he was still within his five year probationary period related to the felony in Missouri. During this time, major efforts were made to get Measure 91 on the ballot, and then to forge a functional effort for legalization. Hundreds of volunteers and paid staff toiled through the tough work of an initiative campaign, with admittedly little effort from Travis Maurer, and arguably a modicum of effort online by his wife, Leah, with the “Moms for Measure 91” Facebook group.
Just a few months after legalization, Maurer began making big deals and polishing his image. He met with some big money investors and played up his involvement in the legalization efforts.
His self-promotion worked well and garnered Maurer many accolades from major news outlets all too happy to carry another marijuana success story in their publications. There were even compliments from Johnny Green of The Weed Blog and his former friend Anthony Johnson, who ran the campaign to legalize marijuana in Oregon.
By mid-summer of 2015, Maurer was riding the tide of cannabis legalization like a surfing champion, and was featured in notable publications across Oregon and even nationally. The Oregonian called Maurer the “Mastermind” of Oregon legalization, and Newsweek published a cover story on him anointing him the “Crusader” for marijuana legalization. By October of 2015, Maurer had become somewhat famous, and was using his newfound notoriety to raise money.
That all came to an abrupt halt when multiple lawsuits were filed, all in under a month.
In February of 2015, Maurer got financially involved with Randy Quast, a NORML board member and wealthy trucking executive from Minnesota. According to a lawsuit filed by Quast, he provided Maurer a personal loan exceeding $150,000 and then invested an additional $700,000 in a business venture with Leah and Travis Maurer. They were allegedly supposed to open a medical dispensary and to fund a marijuana grow operation. By January 2016, Quast would file his lawsuit for breach of contract, defamation, negligence, unlawful conversion and fraud. The lawsuit totals a million dollars in total damages, including financial damages to the tune of well over $800,000. The suit names both Travis and Leah Maurer as defendants.
Just weeks earlier, in December 2015, The Weed Blog (TWB) filed a lawsuit for over $50,000, accusing Maurer of using the business bank account for personal expenses. Kaliko Castille, former ad salesman for TWB, told the OCC in January that Maurer racked up over $25,000 of personal expenses in under three months on TWB’s business account. Additionally, TWB sent a cease and desist order to Leah Maurer in January to prevent her from referring to herself as the “owner” of The Weed Blog website, arguably the number one marijuana website in the country.
And, barely a week after Quast’s suit was filed in January, another lawsuit was filed by Whitsett Rice for over $125,000 in damages, plus legal fees, due to an unresolved debt owed to him by Travis Maurer’s business, STM Leasing, LLC. The suit alleges that Maurer reneged on a promissory note to Rice and “defaulted on and breached their obligations under the promissory note and guaranty by failing and refusing to make [payments].”
In an article from January 25, 2016, Women Grow Portland Chapter Co-chair Embroiled in Disputes and Lawsuits, the OCC explained that Leah Maurer had been misrepresenting her association with TWB and her financial involvement in the Measure 91 campaign to potential investors, as well as to an organization she has been deeply involved with, Women Grow. She had been sending emails to possible investment partners making claims of ownership of TWB, having donated over a million dollars to the Measure 91 campaign, and being a “founder” of New Approach Oregon, the group that spearheaded the legalization efforts.
In a prospecting email, Leah Maurer wrote:
“Thanks for getting back to me. I own the #1 marijuana website, The Weed Blog.com (TWB); the mobile vanity short code, 420420; and have a tremendous media platform because my husband and I were the force behind legalization in Oregon. Google: Travis Maurer marijuana, and Leah Maurer marijuana.”
“…Additionally, the earned media we received, and continue to receive is invaluable. So, to be transparent. anyone we work with we expect to be financially involved in the campaigning process.
We know this works because we put $1m into the campaign in Oregon over a 3 year period.”
Donations made to New Approach Oregon and the Yes on 91 campaigns are a matter of public record. Oregon campaign finance records don’t back up any claim that Leah or Travis donated anything close to a million dollars.
The recipient of the email, Jerome W. Dewald, who was surprised at Leah Maurer’s tactics, is an active investor in marijuana business ventures. He explained to Riverfront Times in St. Louis, “I rarely see people who pump up their political activism as part of an investment pitch.”
On January 28, 2016, Show Me Cannabis, the legalization initiative in Missouri that the Maurers help found and fund, announced that Leah Maurer had resigned from their Board of Directors, as the Riverfront Times reported:
In her resignation letter, Leah Maurer wrote that she “can no longer devote the amount of time, focus and energy I know this organization deserves. Over the next year Travis and I have a number of opportunities and challenges that we need to focus on. Stepping down at this time is best both for our family and for your organization.”
“A carefully-worded letter probably won’t satisfy those already questioning Leah Maurer’s involvement in Show-Me Cannabis’ medical marijuana campaign. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Leah Maurer wrote a $26,000 check to New Approach Missouri in June, but the funds were actually drawn from a company co-owned by Randy Quast, the same businessman suing the couple in Oregon. Quast now claims that he never signed-off on the donation.”
Upon further investigation, the check written to New Approach Missouri was signed by Travis Maurer, who is not an authorized signatory of the account, which was co-owned by Quast and Leah Maurer. Quast claims that he knew nothing about this unauthorized check written by Travis Maurer.
The lawsuits are civil, not criminal, but in our industry being a “criminal” when it concerns marijuana convictions is never a big issue. Many activists who are convicted felons due to marijuana-related offenses, are otherwise trustworthy individuals. However, now in a legal state environment, allegations of fraud and theft are being pursued in a court of law. Whether criminal charges will be filed has yet to be determined, and further evidence of alleged fraud may bolster such a case, but the incredulous nature of their activities and attempts to profit from overstated involvement in Oregon politics and successful businesses speaks for itself.
© 2016 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.