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.
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.”