Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jun 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register
Authors: Brooke Edwards Staggs and Jessica Kwong


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 

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.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom