Kampia grew up in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, a small suburban town 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Philadelphia. Kampia was valedictorian of his 300-person graduating class at Souderton Area High School in 1986, served three months in prison from November 1989 to February 1990, for growing cannabis for personal use at Penn State University, and was elected student body president two years later at that same school. Three days after graduating with honors from Penn State in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering science (a multidisciplinary honors program) and minor in English, he moved to Washington, D.C., for the purpose of ending the government’s war on marijuana users.
Marijuana Policy Project
Rob Kampia co-founded MPP in 1995. MPP has a lobbying branch, an educational branch, and a political action committee and is based in Washington, D.C. MPP employs 27 full-time staffers, as well as consultants to pass statewide ballot initiatives and lobbyists to pass legislation through state legislatures.
As executive director, Kampia has been quoted in almost every major newspaper in the U.S., discussed the cannabis issue dozens of times on local and national radio, appeared on national TV more than a dozen times, and has testified before Congress on two occasions.
In August 2009, seven MPP staffers quit over an alleged incident of sexual misconduct by Kampia involving a female subordinate after an office happy hour. According to former employees, department heads at the organization unanimously asked Kampia to move into a different position than executive director over the incident. Following his statement that he was "hypersexualized,", Kampia was "encouraged" by the MPP board of directors to take a three-month leave of absence and his return is subject to "convincing the board he has dealt with his issues." This reportedly resulted in a cancellation of the MPP's annual fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, with MPP's acting director indicating that "the PR ramifications of holding the event right now are probably obvious" Kampia likened the incident to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying he could remain in charge just as Bill Clinton did.
In March 2001, Kampia testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the medical cannabis case that was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court at the time. As the only witness to advocate for the removal of criminal penalties for cannabis-using patients, Kampia was questioned intensely by all Republican subcommittee members in attendance, including Chairman Mark Souder (R-IN), who told Kampia, "You're an articulate advocate for an evil position."" The hostile exchange between Kampia, Souder, and other members of Congress made national news.
Again in April 2004, Rob Kampia testified before the U.S. House subcommittee on drug policy, attacking the federal government's medical cannabis policies, as well as subcommittee chairman Mark Souder (R-Ind.) — one of the House's most vehement opponents of medical cannabis. Kampia was the only anti-prohibitionist to testify at the hearing.
Kampia has debated the cannabis issue on national TV against then White House Deputy Drug Czar Andrea Barthwell, then-Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) (who subsequently lobbied for MPP), then DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson, then California Attorney General Dan Lungren, and other prohibitionists.
Kampia has also discussed the cannabis issue on National Public Radio's Justice Talking with Margot Adler and—more recently in January 2006—on NPR's All Things Considered.
Kampia ran for Washington D.C.'s congressional seat in 2000, as a member of the Libertarian Party. He was defeated by Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). He supported former Congressman Bob Barr in the 2008 presidential election, saying that Barr was "the only presidential candidate who is in favor of reducing the size of the federal government while also supporting civil liberties."