As this cannabis scene continues to evolve and more players start to emerge, staying ahead of the game is of great importance. For cannabis entrepreneur Robert Taft, that means maintaining a strong hold on the frontline of regulations. Not only is he a man well versed in cannabis laws, but he’s the one helping draft them.
“What we [Taft’s team] are doing is campaigning, gathering signatures and using our constitutional right to pass laws,” he said. “We take a city, look at its demographics and we pull it. We spend the money, go to the county registered voters and get the high potency voters that vote every time. We grab a good percentage of them and we start messaging them.”
Taft was a court officer for 10 years when he was involved in a terrifying situation in which he was held at gun point and taken hostage. The impact of this incident was life changing, he became a state’s witness and had no choice but to endure the victim’s witness protection program at age 29. As a court officer he was sent to therapy and after a few months was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s when he was prescribed a safe, effective and natural alternative to Big Pharma, medicinal marijuana, making him the first technical court officer with a state card for cannabis and he’s been medicating ever since.
Fast forward 13 years, its 2013 and Taft is a huge cannabis activist who’s making changes in regards to the legalization of medicinal marijuana. When a childhood friend gets wind of the waves he’s been causing she reaches out to him for help. Her daughter Gianna, was diagnosed with having a thousand seizures a day, looking for an alternate treatment Natalie Dragotto turned to cannabis and has never looked back.
Together with her doctor, Bonnie Goldstein, they found Myriam’s Hope, gave it to Gianna and the seizures stopped. “What the what?” It’s been just over four years and because of cannabis she now has a better quality of life than she’s ever had before.
“We’re not talking about it stopping seizures for six months, we’re not talking about it stopping for a year,” he said. “We’re on year four, she’s beginning to talk and she’s beginning to walk for the first time in her life. So once that experience happened, now you’re gonna have to rip me off the podium.”
Taft put a lot of everything to get Measure V (allowing dispensaries in Costa Mesa) on the ballot, but after Gianna and the Dragottos, clean and safe access now took priority. So when the city approached him with a different measure, he looked at it with new eyes and after careful thinking he withdrew his support from his own measure and joined forces with Measure X. “As Americans, we just need to be together, vote and pass laws and that’s how you change things,” he said.
So he put his dispensary, 420 Central in Santa Ana instead and left the testing, labs and manufacturing in Costa Mesa. In addition to the collective, he’s the founder and CEO of The Healing Plant of California, founder and CFO of CMX Distribution and the founder of ECS Laboratories. Taft was already on board with the medical value of marijuana since his diagnosis in 2000, and after Gianna, he’s been even more relentless in passing laws that will allow patients the clean and safe access to meds that they deserve. His degree in “building bridges with the right people,” only makes his goals more obtainable with each ballot.
“We have our teams of people,” Taft said. “We have our legal team, real estate team, we have our campaign team, dispensary team, our grow teams and our manufacturing and scientist team. If you don’t have all these teams you’re missing something.”
Taft has been using cannabis for almost two decades, has high hopes for patients looking for relief with cannabis and wants to talk about weed like adults. He’s not going to stop spreading his message, but rather add to the successful testimonies and the lives he’s changing. The stigma marijuana still carries has a possibility of preventing people with serious conditions from getting the proven benefits medicinal cannabis has to offer, simply because they fear the idea of being a “pothead.”
“Bill Gates and all those guys sat around at Berkeley smoking pot and drinking coffee and they created the computer, okay, so tell me they’re stupid,” Taft said. “Some of the smartest people in the world use cannabis and always have.”