December 16, 2013

Medical marijuana dispensary operator and NCIA Founding Member elected mayor of Sebastopol, CA

RJacobIn another signal of the improving public perception of cannabis, cannabis consumers, and the industry that serves them, Sebastopol, CA has elected a medical cannabis advocate to be its mayor. Robert Jacob, 36, is the founder and executive director of Peace in Medicine and CEO of SPARC — both NCIA Founding Member businesses. Originally elected to city council in 2011, Jacob was selected as the next mayor in a unanimous vote of the city council.

Like many long-time cannabis entrepreneurs, Jacob entered the field through social work with people living with debilitating chronic illnesses. In addition to founding Sebastopol’s first medical marijuana dispensary in 2007, he has extensive experience at the head of nonprofits unrelated to medical marijuana and led a nationally-recognized charter school.

While he doesn’t attribute his election to his medical marijuana background, this out-front advocate identifies what’s changed in recent years in an interview with TIME: “what it signifies is that medical cannabis is no longer your whole identity. Historically, if you were a medical-cannabis advocate, that was your defining factor.” As cannabis businesses become more integrated in their communities through strong outreach and philanthropic programs, cannabis business leaders will become more integrated in traditional community leadership circles, and even elected to top positions.

“For me, to serve successfully — the organizations, communities or constituencies I represent — collaboration is key. I encourage anyone interested in getting more involved in cannabis or in local government to go for it. Starting at the local level, participation is how we shape our future” Jacob said in a statement to NCIA.

TIME has dubbed Jacob America’s “first ganjapreneur turned mayor”, but he is by no means the first to blend a career in public service with a career in cannabusiness: professionals joining the ranks of the cannabis industry now include a former DEA agent, aformer member of Congress, and former marijuana industry regulators.

View a video from NCIA’s Southwest CannaBusiness Symposiumfeaturing a talk from Robert Jacob and others discussing the importance of productive and effective relationships with government officials online.

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