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These California politicians once helped regulate legal marijuana. Now they’re working for the industry

Former California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who once enforced drug laws, is among many state officials who have gotten involved in the marijuana industry.   (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

As California’s attorney general from 1999 to 2007, Bill Lockyer was on the inside as the state wrestled with a developing marijuana industry. But these days he’s watching the transformation from the outside, as co-founder of a licensed pot distributor in Lynwood.

Lockyer, whose four-decade public career included a stint as the powerful leader of the state Senate, is among a growing number of former government leaders, bureaucrats and regulators who have joined or established financial ties with the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry in the last few years.

More than two dozen government officials in California have made the leap. Most, like Lockyer, jumped in after voters in 2016 approved Proposition 64, which legalized growing, distributing and selling cannabis for recreational use.

Lockyer said he was drawn by his fascination with seeing a new industry spring up.

“What has been interesting to me — an academic interest — is watching a whole new business sector evolve, from an illicit market to a legal system, and how people do it and the companies that get created. It’s rare that you ever get to see that,” Lockyer said.

Other top California politicians who have entered business relationships with the cannabis industry include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), who transitioned to the pot industry after losing a reelection bid last year; and former San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, a Democrat whose lobbying firm has a cannabis client that he says is handled by his partner.

On the national level, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and former Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) are among those who now make their money off the legal marijuana trade.

Five former aides to Gov. Jerry Brown, who left office in January, have also gone to work for cannabis businesses or lobbying firms that assist such ventures. In addition, web giant Weedmaps hired a lobbying firm formed by two former advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Patrick McGreevy on Los Angeles Times

Published: September 30, 2019

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