Come to the dank side

Robbie Waters has new job as medical-pot consultant

Former Sacramento City Councilman Robbie Waters is now lobbying local governments on behalf of medical marijuana.

Former Sacramento City Councilman Robbie Waters is now lobbying local governments on behalf of medical marijuana.

Robbie Waters has tried his hand at many, many things. The 75-year-old was a cop for two decades, and the sheriff of Sacramento County for four years. He still runs his own hardware store and framing business in the Pocket, an area he represented for 16 years as a Sacramento City Council member.

His legacy is literally cemented in Sacramento—in the name of the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library and on plaques affixed to many other buildings around town.

But Waters’ new gig is a bit surprising. Not so much that he’d become a political consultant, but that he’d become a political consultant for marijuana.

For years the lone Republican on the Sacramento City Council, Waters was skeptical about medical pot, to say the least. “I was 100 percent opposed to medical marijuana in the city of Sacramento,” he said.

In fact, it was Waters who dropped the dime on one medical-pot dispensary on 16th Street a few years back. After getting complaints from neighbors, he called up the Drug Enforcement Administration, leading to a raid and seizures of 22 pounds of green buds and nearly $50,000 in cash.

But medical pot is legal, according to state law. And Waters, like his fellow council members, struggled to find a balance between patients’ rights and the rights of other citizens to live without the crime and nuisance that dispensaries can bring.

Over time, Waters developed a friendship with medical-pot activist Ryan Landers and got more familiar with some clinics in town.

And he says that he came to think of dispensaries, some of them at least, as legitimate businesses. “Little by little, I started to lose my prejudice that everybody out there is a criminal,” Waters recalled.

Waters was a major force behind Sacramento’s medical-pot ordinance, which eventually opened the door for city taxation of weed, at a whopping $1.5 million in revenue a year. In the process, he also got to know pot lobbyist Max Del Real, another major player in the compromise.

When Waters failed to make the runoff election against two well-funded challengers for his city council seat, Del Real recruited him as a paid consultant and the two have been traveling the state, trying to export what they call Sacramento’s “model ordinance” to other towns.

Waters says he doesn’t partake, medically or otherwise, and he’s still strongly opposed to legalization of pot for recreational use.

But the two men say it was Waters’ testimony that helped break the tie on the Chico City Council and led to approval of two medical-marijuana dispensaries there. “The Sacramento model is being looked at all over the state. I’m proud of what we were able to do there,” Waters told the council members in Chico.

Waters also testified to the Planning Commission in Stockton on behalf of a similar ordinance there. And of a recent trip to the city of Costa Mesa, Del Real said, “They love him in Orange County. He’s one of them!”

Del Real is hopeful that Waters can now help persuade the more conservative Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance similar to Sacramento city’s. It wasn’t looking so good at press time. The board was considering an urgency ordinance that was much more restrictive than the city’s—for example, banning sale of “edibles” for users who don’t want to (or can’t) smoke marijuana, and only allowing dispensaries in areas zoned for industrial use, often not well-served by public transit.

Still, if Waters can change his mind on the issue of medical pot, perhaps he can change some other minds, too.

“Robbie Waters is standing up saying medical cannabis is good for the community,” Del Real said. “This is the same guy who four years ago was calling the feds.”