Dana Watch: Cannablitz

Illustration by Bob Aul

There is one industry that political opponents of Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s Bongwater) had better not ignore.

No, not the space, defense, immigrant roundup, Russian doll or pea green garment-making industries one immediately associates with Rohrabacher.

It’s that other one, the cannabis industry or cannabiz.

California’s conservative firebrand and cannabis legalization champion is facing the toughest re-election fight of his life,” froths Peter Hecht, the former Sacramento Bee political reporter and Los Angeles bureau chief, for Leafly, “the world’s largest cannabis information resource.”

Hecht continues: “The Republican stalwart has enjoyed a ballot-proof seat for 30 years. But suddenly he finds himself vulnerable—and the cannabis-legalization movement is at risk of losing one of its most powerful defenders.”

Cannabiz pays handsomely for that defense. Industry leaders have individually contributed more than $200,000 to Rohrabacher’s campaigns. Contributors include Weedmaps CEO Doug Francis and his wife, Rebecca ($10,400), and Advanced Nutrients CEO Michael Straumietis, Caliva CEO Larry Thacker, FlavRx Cannabis marketing director Braelyn Davis and former Eaze CEO Keith McCarty ($5,400 each).

Did somebody wave their hands through the haze to proclaim, “single-issue voters”? Well, consider former yippie and Harborside Health Centers co-founder Steve DeAngelo, who, Hecht writes, “holds progressive views” and “disagrees with Rohrabacher on almost every issue.” Almost. DeAngelo has contributed $1,000 to Rohrabacher’s re-election machine.

“How important is Dana to the cause?” DeAngelo rhetorically asked Hecht. “I will tell you without the courage of Dana Rohrabacher, it is possible this industry could have been strangled in its grave. He is absolutely critical.”

Having been a strong supporter of his former boss’ wife Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, Rohrabacher had by 1999 become convinced that marijuana could help ease pain and suffering. Four years later, he helped to craft the legislation in Congress that essentially forbids the Justice Department from prosecuting medical-cannabis cases in states where it is legal. Rohrabacher personally made sure the bill survived every spending bill since, including the one both houses passed in late March.

Speaking of personally, after not having smoked pot for half a century, Rohrabacher a little more than a year ago got a prescription for a cannabidiol salve to aid his recovery from surgery to both shoulders. Shortly thereafter, he formed the first Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Democrats and Republicans seeking the 48th Congressional District seat have cited Rohrabacher’s marijuana advocacy as proof the 30-year lawmaker is out-of-touch with his constituents’ pressing needs. If you were cannabiz, who would you support?

Got Dana Watch fodder? Email mcoker@ocweekly.com.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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