Robert Jacob, founder and executive director of two medical marijuana dispensaries, is running for the City Council in Sebastopol, where a pot business hardly raises an eyebrow.
Running the dispensaries might even be a positive, Jacob said.
"It will be a great plus," said Jacob. "It is a testament to my ability to be a community builder and take a leadership role."
And if Jacob, who runs Peace In Medicine, is elected, it may be a first in California for someone making a living in medical marijuana.
Jacob, 35, said his interest in community issues stems largely from his service on the city planning commission for the past year.
"Taking part in that, I have become more and more interested in the issues facing Sebastopol," Jacob said. "I am happy with the direction that Sebastopol is going in, the walkability, the sustainable business development. I am really interested in continuing the trends for our city that have greatly improved the quality of life."
Jacob's office is in Peace In Medicine, a nondescript building off to the side of Gravenstein Station. The only indication it might not be just an insurance office is a plain-clothed security guard on the porch talking into a lapel mic.
Jacob said he started Peace In Medicine five years ago because he saw a need in Sebastopol.
"I wanted to create something that would be a positive for the town and a healing center," Jacob said.
Jacob also fashions himself as a successful business man. He runs an enterprise with 49 employees at dispensaries in Sebastopol and on Dutton Avenue in Santa Rosa, with annual revenues of $5 million.
Peace In Medicine is a mutual benefit corporation under California law, which gives it nonprofit status as an organization set up to serve its membership. It is only required to report the names of its officers and directors and its business personal property taxes.
The officers are Jacob, who as executive director earns $64,000 a year, and a chief financial officer who earns $70,000.
Jacob doesn't shy away from his association with medical marijuana, which is still controversial, with some critics believing it is just a cover for illicit marijuana sales.
"It is something that I am willing to deal with head on. Peace in Medicine is something I am extremely proud of," Jacob said. "The medical marijuana ordinance in Sebastopol is seen as a model for the rest of the state."
Jacob said he has also been a medical marijuana user, but it is in the past.
"I have found medical cannabis to be a helpful aid when necessary," Jacob said.
Other than Peace In Medicine, however, Jacob is in the mainstream. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol and a member of the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce.
He is also a founding member and on the steering committee for Cittaslow Sebastopol, which promotes slow growth and a small-town character, and the Community Emergency Response Team that organizes neighborhoods for disaster preparedness.
A native of Rodeo, he has worked with other nonprofit agencies, including the Health Initiatives for Youth in San Francisco and Face-to-Face in Sonoma County.
He has also worked for the Ted Jacob Engineering Group in Oakland, which he describes as a family business run by his uncle, founded a chain of beauty salons in Turlock and also started and directed the Turlock Learning Center, a charter school.
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