Andy Caffrey, the congressional candidate from Humboldt County who wears a black cowboy hat over the gray hair cascading down his back, has twice lit a marijuana cigarette in public to punctuate his support for legalizing pot.
Caffrey, who says he is a medical marijuana patient suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, said he would, if elected, smoke a joint on the Capitol steps and get arrested to underscore his point.
"I'll do whatever it takes," said Caffrey, a former Green Party and Earth First! activist.
But as colorful as it is, Caffrey's pot advocacy affords him little separation from the field of a dozen candidates running for the North Coast seat in Congress.
The district, which runs from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, includes the entire Emerald Triangle — Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — where marijuana cultivation dates back to the 1970s and is an economic mainstay.
At least six of the eight Democrats and the two independents want marijuana — a crop worth an estimated $14 billion a year in California — approved for recreational use by adults.
The two Republicans are opposed to legalization, but one of them says pot penalties are excessive.
"It's a beginning man," said Caffrey, 54, who comes from Garberville in the marijuana heartland. "This is an extraordinary race."
No one else has fired up a joint, as Caffrey did Thursday in Fairfax and last week in Fort Bragg, but in their own style, those who also back legalization include:
Susan Adams, a Marin County supervisor and a nurse, said the federal government's war on marijuana has "wasted billions of taxpayers' money."