Although Initiative 502 legalized the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana products in Washington back in 2012, voters are still asked to provide input at the ballot box.
Sometimes, cannabis issues and knowledge can be part of a candidate’s political platform or background, including those eager to change laws to benefit citizens or business owners. Sometimes it’s an interest in adjusting local policies governing growing or selling.
In Spokane, a candidate with professional cannabis experience is seeking a legislative seat.
Democrat Jessa Lewis is hoping to fill the District 6 position of State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R), who is running for Spokane County treasurer.
Lewis, born in Colville and raised in Spokane, is a graduate of Ferris High School and is an alumna of Spokane Falls Community College. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Resource Management and Energy Policy from Evergreen State College and a master’s in Business Administration from Presidio Graduate School.
Lewis previously worked as general manager and marketing director at cannabis retailer Dockside Cannabis in Seattle and as director of marketing and brand development at cannabis processer Circanna.
The clientele Lewis encountered “didn’t fall in the typical portrayal” of cannabis users. They were Baby Boomers, soccer moms, “old ladies with arthritis who bought cookies for their knitting circles.”
Following her experience as a 2016 Democratic National Convention delegate for Bernie Sanders, Lewis shifted her focus to politics, specifically to address issues of economic inequality and health care.
She currently serves as the Eastern Washington director of Health Care for All.
“The cannabis industry has changed in the few years since I’ve been out of it,” Lewis said in a phone interview. When she reached out to people in the cannabis industry, she heard concerns about traceability, levels of taxation, banking restrictions and issues for medical patients.
“We have an opportunity to right a lot of the wrongs have been visited on vulnerable populations. Addressing these issues is good for our economy and good for our community,” said Lewis.
Lewis is especially concerned that current regulations and federal restrictions are keeping medical patients, including veterans, from accessing the high-dose cannabis they need to manage pain and other conditions, which can contribute to a reliance on pharmaceutical opioids.
“We need to look at (cannabis) as a treatment,” she said. “My step-dad was permanently disabled in a train accident. I’ve seen what high-grade pharmaceuticals do to people.”
If elected, Lewis wants to work on fixing the overly burdensome regulations that impact both business owners and medical cannabis patients.
“I’m for the creation of jobs and stimulation of local economy,” she said.
Lewis faces Jeff Holy (R), a former law enforcement officer and a three-term state House member. In the August primary Holy earned 52.22 percent and Lewis received 47.78 percent of the vote.
Another cannabis-adjacent candidate is Liz Hallock, running as a Democrat for State Representative in Yakima’s District 14. Hallock is an attorney and owner of Sweet Relief Cannabis Boutique in Yakima. Hallock advanced to the November general election over fellow Democratic candidate Noah Ramirez and will face two-term incumbent Gina Mosbrucker (R).
Crystal Oliver (D), co-owner of Washington’s Finest Cannabis in Deer Park, lost to Republican Joel Kretz and Democrat Mike Bell in the race for State Representative (Pos. 2) in Legislative District 7.
Cannabis rights advocate and founder of media production company Higher Influence Jed Haney ran as an Independent for Thurston County Commissioner, losing to Democrat Tye Menser and Independent Bud Blake.
In Chelan County, cannabis grower Lee Duncan (no party preference) did not advance in a race for commissioner, with Bob Bugert (no party preference) and Shon D. Smith (D) advancing to the general.
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