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How This Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Became a Mayor

by Wes Messamore, published

A medical marijuana dispensary owner and this California city just made history.

Welcome to Sebastopol

Last week in California, for the first time in US history, a medical marijuana dispensary owner became a mayor. Robert Jacob, 36, was chosen to be Sebastopol's next mayor by a unanimous vote of the Sebastopol City Council, making Jacob the highest-office holder in the United States with connections to the marijuana industry.

Robert Jacob has spent the last decade empowering the city's disenfranchised.

Robert Jacob is America's first medical marijuana dispensary owner to become the mayor of a city.

When he moved to Sebastopol nearly a decade ago, Jacob, who is Mexican-Iranian and the city's first Latino mayor, began working to empower marginalized groups such as minorities, the homeless, and AIDS patients.

He says his association with medical marijuana does not define him:

"Before, medical marijuana would be considered a defining factor. Now it’s just another part of my identity. What it does say is that there’s a better understanding of cannabis as medicine."


Medical Marijuana Protest

“Although medical marijuana enjoys the support of 80 percent of Americans, Jacob’s election as mayor of Sebastopol brings additional legitimacy to the patient community,” says Don Duncan, California Director of Americans for Safe Access.

So how did Jacob get here?

Jacob started as a community organizer.


Sebastopol Community Center

Robert Jacob has developed and led several nonprofits to serve disenfranchised youth and patients. Before moving to Sebastopol he spent eight years in San Francisco working with homeless youth and HIV/AIDS patients.

In an interview with SF Weekly, Jacob relates how he was struck by the marginalization of medical marijuana users after arriving in Sebastopol a decade ago:

"People were living in fear and feeling bad about themselves. You had a whole group of people living in shame. It was a disenfranchised community, inappropriately judged."

He also has an impressive background in business and entrepreneurship.


North Bay Business Journal Forty under 40

According to Jacob's page on Sebastopol's website: "His professional background in corporate operations and project management includes managing construction of three international hospitals and the successful development of two proprietary businesses: a chain of salons and spas and an award winning charter school."

In 2012, he was named one of the North Bay Business Journal's Forty under 40 outstanding young business leaders to watch.

He started two medical marijuana dispensaries in 2007.

Photo: Brant Ward, The San Francisco Chronicle

Combining his entrepreneurial background with community outreach and service, Jacob started Peace in Medicine in 2007, a company that runs two medical marijuana dispensaries with a staff of 40 full-time employees that serve 16,000 patients. Peace in Medicine offers its patients more than just medical marijuana; Jacob's dispensaries are healing centers that offer pain-relieving acupuncture and massage.

He was unanimously appointed to the Sebastopol Planning Commission in 2011.


Carefully navigating the planning and regulatory process for his dispensaries gave Jacob the expertise that landed him an appointment-- by unanimous vote of the city council-- to the Sebastopol Planning Commission in 2011.

He played a critical role in helping to establish statewide dispensary regulations for California, and consulted for local officials in cities working to establish regulatory ordinances for medical marijuana, including Napa, Sacramento, San Jose, and Stockton.

And elected to City Council with a record number of votes in 2012.

Photo: Crista Jeremiason / Press Democrat

By the time Jacob ran for city council in 2012, he was chair of Sebastopol's planning commission and had gained political experience from working in the struggle for marriage equality. He won with a record number of votes.

Common Solutions

Photo: Christopher Chung / Press Democrat

Early in 2013, Robert Jacob was elected Vice Mayor of Sebastopol. From there it didn't take long for the entrepreneur, community organizer, and political activist to become Mayor of Sebastopol in a unanimous vote of the city council last week.

So how did this medical marijuana dispensary owner become the mayor of a California city?

As it says on the city website:

"He has an uncanny ability to unite different communities behind common solutions."

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