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L.A. councilman takes medical marijuana for nerve disorder

July 31, 2012 |  7:45 am

Medical pot advocates rally support for political allies, including Councilman Bill Rosendahl, in L.A.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a longtime proponent of legalizing pot nationwide, told The Times that he has had his own medical marijuana prescription for a decade, relying on the drug to cope with neuropathy, a nerve disorder that can make his feet "red hot with pain."

That makes the councilman, whose district stretches from Westchester to Pacific Palisades, the first politician at City Hall to acknowledge being a consumer of medical marijuana. Rosendahl would not divulge where he obtains his marijuana but said he does so legally.

Pot dispensaries, said Rosendahl, are no different than any other group seeking to weigh in at City Hall. "They wanted to do something for me, and it's been clear for 20 to 30 years where I stand on this issue. I think the war on drugs is destroying this great nation."

Medical marijuana advocates suffered a bruising political setback last week, watching helplessly as the Los Angeles City Council moved to shut down hundreds of pot shops.

But pot dispensaries have quietly made headway on another City Hall front: mobilizing campaign cash for their key allies. Over the last year, dispensaries and their supporters have given more than $16,000 to the re-election campaigns of two Westside councilmen who opposed the pot shop ban, according to a Times review.

Rosendahl, who faces re-election in March, accepted nearly $8,900 from medical marijuana advocates last year, more than one-tenth of the money collected by his campaign in 2011.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who also faces re-election, saw 9% of his campaign contributions in the last year, or more than $7,300, come from dispensaries and their advocates. "I'm an unabashed supporter of medical marijuana. I think it's a matter of life and death, literally. So they know keeping me in office would be a positive thing for them," he said.

Backers of medical marijuana demonstrated political savvy earlier this year, with dozens of dispensaries allowing their employees to organize through the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, a longtime player in city politics. Now, cannabis groups are joining real estate developers, billboard companies and other special interests that coordinate fundraising for specific candidates.

-- David Zahniser

Photo: L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has long favored legalizing marijuana nationwide and has his own prescription to manage his neuropathy. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times