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Sebastopol’s new mayor puts city on medical marijuana map

By MATT BROWN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Left-leaning Sebastopol has elected Green Party candidates to the City Council, fought PG&E SmartMeters and declared itself a nuclear-free zone.

Now the city is the first in the nation to select a mayor with a background in the medical marijuana industry.

Sebastopol's newly selected mayor Robert Jacob at his Peace in Medicine dispensary on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

Sebastopol’s newly selected mayor Robert Jacob at his Peace in Medicine dispensary on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

First-year councilman Robert Jacob, founder and executive director of marijuana dispensary Peace in Medicine, was unanimously chosen last week for the role by his peers on the City Council.

Jacob’s rise to political prominence says as much about Sebastopol’s progressivism as it does about the growing acceptance of marijuana in society, cannabis advocates said.

The 36-year-old mayor was elected to the City Council last year amid a backlash over a downtown CVS development. In 2007, he founded Peace in Medicine, a nonprofit collective with medical marijuana dispensaries in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa.

Jacob, who is gay and is the first Latino mayor of Sebastopol, said he has worked to empower disenfranchised groups such as minorities, the homeless and AIDS patients. He said his association with medical marijuana does not define him.

“Before, medical marijuana would be considered a defining factor,” he said. “Now it’s just another part of my identity. What it does say is that there’s a better understanding of cannabis as medicine.”

Twenty states, starting with California in 1996, have legalized or decriminalized medical marijuana. Washington and Colorado last year legalized the drug for recreational use. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.

Sebastopol in 2007 passed an ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.

Marijuana advocates hailed Jacob’s ascension to mayor as “historic” and “unprecedented.”

“There has never been a dispensary operator elected to public office anywhere in the country, as far as we’re aware,” said Kris Hermes, media liaison with Americans for Safe Access, a Washington, D.C.-based medical marijuana advocacy organization. “This is a sign that indicates the mainstreaming of medical marijuana. We’re no longer the most radical group in the room.”

The position of mayor in Sebastopol is largely ceremonial. The mayor is not afforded powers beyond those of other councilmembers except for the ability to run meetings and set agendas, said outgoing mayor Michael Kyes. Mayors typically serve for a year, and the post is traditionally rotated among councilmembers.

Kyes said Jacobs will be a fine city head and doesn’t think his background as a marijuana dispenser is eyebrow-raising in Sebastopol.

“He’s dynamic and enthusiastic, and I think he’ll be a good leader,” he said. “I don’t think of that (dispensary) very often in Sebastopol. When it first opened it was a big deal. Now it’s just like any other business. (Jacob) is as mainstream as any other business owner in Sebastopol.”

Craig Litwin, a Sebastopol political consultant who worked on Jacob’s campaign, said the new mayor is passionate about all the issues facing the city, not just access to medical marijuana.

“He brings a lot of compassion for disenfranchised groups,” he said. “He supports our small-town charm. He is for fiscal responsibility. I’ve never met a better multitasker than Robert Jacob.”

Jacob said his selection as mayor shows a level of cooperation on a City Council that has become increasingly divisive.

“The fact that I was appointed by my peers by unanimous vote feels great,” he said. “Sebastopol is a place where we don’t always agree. This shows that we are willing to work together.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.)





6 Responses to “Sebastopol’s new mayor puts city on medical marijuana map”

  1. Big Fish says:

    What can you say! Ah…Sebastopol! Where men and men and women are too!! or whatever. A joyous subdued pastoral landscape where people masquerading as parents share joints and beers and listen to “the Dead” with young teenagers and then get angry and befuddled when they have to ask for rent when the kids turn 30. Red Alert! Stop the Bombs! Plant vegetables!!!!!Call the PD!!

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  2. Filled with Joy says:

    The new leaf leaning mayor of smokin’ Sebastopol will have the bud free of all and legal in the little town before long.

    This guy should be in jail not representing the city of anything goes. Why not let the cigarette smokers smoke wherever and whenever they want? It is denying them their personal freedom.

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  3. bear says:

    Equal to the alcohol most others consume regularly.

    I suggest YOU pay for all the inmates incarcerated at $30-40K a year for minor marijuana offenses. Then you can start paying for nonviolent “3 strikes” prisoners.

    I’m talking about a separate extra tax for you and others like you.

    30-40

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  4. James Bennett says:

    One component of these plans includes mandatory Smart Meter installations.

    These EMF emitting/surveillance/control devices have received International opposition.
    Think a ‘public servant’ or the PD might feel some obligation to inform the citizens?
    I told a PD reporter about the meetings.

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  5. James Bennett says:

    Does that mean we can count on some ‘fight’ Dec. 11th at the Vet’s Bldg. during the Climate Action Plan meetings?

    Why don’t we all know about these life changing ‘plans’?

    That was a rhetorical question.

    These Climate Action Plans have lots of life changing baggage.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  6. Grapevines says:

    Gotta wonder what “kind” of smoke is going to be filling those legendary “smoke filled rooms” in Sebastopol nowadays.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

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