Oregon Recovers director Mike Marshall bounced from state alcohol task force over Facebook post

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
Jan. 5, 2024 8:09 p.m. Updated: Jan. 6, 2024 5:20 p.m.

Gov. Tina Kotek took Marshall off a task force considering higher beer and wine taxes because of a post her office called insensitive and inappropriate.

Gov. Tina Kotek has removed a prominent anti-addiction advocate from a task force that will study higher alcohol taxes in the state, following outcry over a Facebook post about the death of an Oregon brewer.

Mike Marshall, executive director of Oregon Recovers, confirmed Friday that Kotek has removed him from the state’s new Task Force on Alcohol Pricing and Addiction Services, which is likely to have a major say in whether the state increases taxes on beer, cider and wine as advocates like Marshall have pushed for years.

A submitted screenshot of a December post on Facebook by Oregon Recovers Executive Director Mike Marshall. The post has since been removed, but Marshall acknowledges posting it.

A submitted screenshot of a December post on Facebook by Oregon Recovers Executive Director Mike Marshall. The post has since been removed, but Marshall acknowledges posting it.

Screenshot via FaceBook

Marshall had faced blowback from some critics since December, when he shared an article on Facebook about Wilsonville brewer Don Anderson dying suddenly of a heart attack.

Accompanying the post was a snippet of text Marshall pulled from Johns Hopkins that appeared to blame drinking for Anderson’s death. It read: “Heavy drinking is linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including heart conditions. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke. Excessive drinking can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle.”

Related: Illegal substances are part of addiction problem in Oregon, but alcohol is biggest killer

Marshall eventually deleted the post, but not before spurring outcry. Ben Edmunds, president of the Oregon Brewers Guild, wrote that Marshall’s post was “crass” and accused him of dancing on Anderson’s grave.

Not long after, Edmunds sent a letter to Kotek demanding that Marshall be removed from the alcohol task force. The letter contended that Marshall “used social media to publicly denigrate [Anderson], humiliating his family and making false and unsupported assumptions about his death.”

“How can you ask other members of the Task Force on Alcohol Pricing and Addiction Services to serve alongside someone who is lacking a moral compass, baseline compassion, and respect for our fellow Oregonians?” Edmunds wrote in the Dec. 8 letter. “No one deserves this kind of treatment.”

Marshall refused to step down, Kotek’s adviser says

Asked about the governor’s decision, Kotek’s office provided correspondence on the matter between Marshall and Constantin Severe, a public safety adviser to Kotek. It showed that Severe first raised the Facebook post with Marshall in late December in a phone call requesting that Marshall offer a new staff member from Oregon Recovers to replace him on the task force.


Severe’s call inspired a lengthy and fiery response from Marshall, who suggested he’d been blindsided by the call. Marshall contended that he was only offering factual information about the health impacts of alcohol, and that the social media post was being cynically weaponized by members of the alcohol industry who shouldn’t have had access to his Facebook page in the first place.

“Don’t be fooled. Their opposition to my inclusion on the Task Force is not about a single Facebook post,” Marshall wrote in a letter to Severe. “This is about five years of effective public education about the harm the alcohol industry is causing Oregon families — advocacy that has forced them to the table for the first time in 50 years. Of course they want me replaced.”

Related: Oregon governor tables liquor fee increase

Marshall also suggested removing him from the task force could blow up in Kotek’s face.

“If I were to be replaced there would likely be multiple stories about the composition of the task force, its mission, the role campaign contributions played in its formation, and possibly even the personal life of Mr. Anderson,” Marshall wrote. “None of that is in anyone’s interest. Likewise, the news that I was replaced at the request of the beer industry will create significant backlash within the public health community.”

According to the governor’s office, Marshall did not step down or offer a replacement by Thursday, when Severe sent a letter removing him from the task force.

“We understand that you have chosen not to resign or identify another person from Oregon Recovers to take your place, so I am writing to inform you that you are being removed from the Task Force effective immediately,” Severe wrote. “We will be seeking a replacement from within the recovery community for the position you held.”

Marshall said Friday that Oregon Recovers has recommended the group’s law clerk, Andrew Swanson, to serve on the task force. He disputed the characterization that he refused to resign, saying instead that he’d requested further dialogue with the governor’s office on the matter while the Oregon Recovers board considered how to proceed. A text message provided by Marshall shows he texted Severe on Wednesday asking to talk about the situation.

Halting progress of alcohol tax hike

The debate over higher alcohol taxes in Oregon has played out for years. Oregon Recovers and other advocacy groups have recently hammered away at a tax hike as a way to both find new money to help Oregonians get treatment for addictions and cut down on the significant public health toll tied to alcohol consumption in the state. According to the Oregon Health Authority, an average of six people a day die in the state from alcohol-related causes.

Related: As alcohol-related deaths rise in Oregon, OHA wants to spark more conversations around excessive drinking

But the group’s progress has been halting. Two proposals that emerged last year — one to raise taxes on liquor, another to raise them on beer, wine and cider — both collapsed in the face of lobbying from the alcohol and restaurant industries.

Instead, lawmakers created a new 20-member task force with a mandate to study the cost alcohol addiction inflicts on Oregon, funding for alcohol treatment in the state, and the pros and cons of raising alcohol taxes. The group’s findings are due to lawmakers by September and are likely to have a major impact on what action, if any, lawmakers take when they convene in 2025.