SANTA ANA – In her bid to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Loretta Sanchez is getting a glowing endorsement from an industry that’s increasingly dabbling in politics: legal marijuana.
The CEO of the first licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Orange County sent a letter to some 80,000 area customers encouraging them to support Sanchez, D-Orange, in the race against the leading contender, state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
David De Wyk with South Coast Safe Access wrote that Sanchez has a history of supporting the decriminalization of medical marijuana, halting federal raids on dispensaries and defending a state’s right to regulate use.
“Rep. Sanchez has been an advocate for public policy that will allow for safe access to marijuana in the state of California and across the nation – well before it was the popular thing to do,” De Wyk wrote in an undated letter sent two weeks ago.
Luis Vizcaino, senior adviser for the Sanchez campaign, acknowledged that it’s a “very unconventional type of endorsement.” But he said Sanchez was appreciative to get it.
“It’s the epitome of grass-roots outreach in terms of people talking to each other,” Vizcaino said.
Sanchez isn’t the only candidate who might appreciate support from the pot industry. Nathan Click, spokesman for the Harris campaign, described the California Attorney General as a “longtime proponent of medical marijuana.”
The state’s top cop has spoken about a need for the federal government to change how it classifies marijuana on its schedule of controlled substances. She’s defended California’s right to regulate medical marijuana, and Click said she “generally supports legalization.”
Sanchez and South Coast Safe Access connected a couple of months ago over organized labor.
In March, the congresswoman attended a news conference announcing that De Wyk’s Warner Avenue shop was unionizing under an agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324. Vizcaino said De Wyk approached Sanchez after that event to discuss how he could support her campaign.
While it’s not unusual to hear industry insiders advocate for legalizing marijuana, Fred Smoller – an associate professor of political science at Chapman University, where Sanchez graduated with a degree in economics – said it’s still not common to hear them actively campaign for candidates.
“They are now becoming a legitimate industry, and industries get involved in the political process,” Smoller said.
Smoller doesn’t think the pot shop endorsement will affect the battle between Sanchez and Harris.
Public acceptance of the marijuana industry has never been higher, he pointed out. So while the endorsement isn’t as beneficial as, say, police groups or the Boy Scouts, it’s not detrimental the way support from tobacco or oil companies would be.
Also, it seems a lock the Democrats will face off Nov. 8, Smoller said. The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary advance regardless of party affiliation.