San Diego

Cannabis Companies Seek to Sway Local Politics

Voters legalized marijuana last November but cities and counties can still regulate or prohibit sales

Two upcoming elections will test the influence of companies that grow and sell medical marijuana, and plan to sell recreational cannabis next year in San Diego.

Local voters strongly approved the recreational use of marijuana when they voted “yes” in big numbers for Proposition 64, last November.

But the five-member Board of Supervisors has moved in the opposite direction, by voting to prohibit the sale of medicinal marijuana in the county's unincorporated area.

"We think the voters have spoken quite clearly on this and that county supervisors are simply going against the will of the voters here," said Virginia Falces, communications director for Outco, a local medical marijuana company.

Falces says the local cannabis industry, along with its suppliers and customers, will work to elect new board members who support medical marijuana and who will be open to the recreational sale of cannabis.

The industry is already raising money for Democratic party candidate Nathan Fletcher, who hopes to replace District Four incumbent Ron Roberts.

Roberts can't run again because of term limits. He has not opposed the sale of medical marijuana and Falces says her industry wants to be sure his replacement is at least as committed as Roberts to allowing the sale of those products.

Fifth district incumbent Bill Horn is also "termed out." 

Horn has opposed the sale of cannabis in any form, so the election of a pro-cannabis candidate in district five could be a political game-changer in San Diego County.

"We haven't identified a candidate in Bill Horn’s district,” Falces told NBC 7. “But we will. Hopefully, that person exists.”

Falces says marijuana advocates will interview district five candidates and invite them to tour the company's marijuana growing and distribution center, where they’ll see agricultural and research experts at work.

“They’ll see that we produce a very consistent and very clean product that you don't see on the black market or the illegal market."

Even though voters legalized marijuana last November, cities and counties can still regulate or even prohibit sale of the drug.

That's why Falces says marijuana will continue to be an issue in local elections, and why the votes of both supporters and opponents of cannabis sales are important.

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