Over the years, San Diego has known its share of newly rich political sugar daddies, spending their up-and-coming wealth on their chosen candidates of the hour. Disgraced banker C. Arnholt Smith, drug-money-laundering Jack-in-the-Box mega millionaire Dick Silberman, and fallen lawyer Bill Lerach all ended up doing time.
Others, including La Jolla Democratic billionaire and Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs and his ex-CEO son Paul, have managed to stay on the legitimate side of the street.
Now, it appears, it is the turn of the marijuana moguls to grab a piece of the political spotlight.
As previously reported here, members of San Diego's medical pot lobby have been backing attorney Robert Brewer's bid to unseat GOP district attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The support was in the form of $10,000 given on April 25 by a political action committee calling itself the Alliance for Responsible Medicinal Access PAC to a pro-Brewer independent expenditure committee known as the Public Safety Advocates PAC.
The medical marijuana backers have been joined in their support for Brewer by the San Diego Deputy Sheriffs Association PAC, which gave $5000, and the San Diego Police Officers Association PAC, which came up with a total of $10,000 for the Dumanis challenger's cause. Other cop labor groups and a Beverly Hills accountant kicked in as well.
But a mystery as thick as pungent pot smoke has lingered on: where did the medical marijuana PAC get its cash?
Now some new facts have emerged. According to a May 22 disclosure report filed with the San Diego city clerk's office, $10,000 of the total of $21,835 raised by the PAC from the beginning of this year through May 17 was provided by a firm called General Hemp, LLC of Sarasota, Florida. Another Sunshine State donor was listed as George Diaz, whose occupation was given as chief of neurology at Miami's Mt. Sinai Comprehensive Stroke Center.
On March 10, Forbes reported that the man behind General Hemp is Stuart Titus, who has become a major player in the swirl of investment intrigue accompanying the dawn of legalized pot in America.
In the magazine's April 24 issue, Forbes reporter Nathan Vardi followed up with a feature story about the white-hot wheeling and dealing that the magazine says has made Bart Mackay, a Las Vegas lawyer, "the first pot stock billionaire."
Mackay reportedly created a company called CannaVest "by using companies he owned to buy control of a penny stock company in the foreclosure business." According to the piece, "Mackay’s share purchases were financed by a Florida physiotherapist named Stuart Titus," who "also backs a hemp multilevel marketing company."
The deal has paid off big for Titus, the magazine says.
"This year he’s been turning his paper profits into actual cash, taking CannaVest shares he had bought for a nickel each and selling them for as much as $150 a share, and pocketing $7 million, an SEC filing shows.
"'I have to say that, you know, this has turned out quite nicely,' Titus tells Forbes in an interview."
Notes the story, "real estate, marketing and oil outfits have miraculously morphed into medical marijuana and hemp companies, either through reverse mergers or simply changing their declared line of business.
“And just about every single one is thinly traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board, or Pink Sheets, where promoters can push them with the enthusiasm of a campus dealer."