California Senate leader and adversary to recreational legalization of marijuana, Kevin de Leòn, has been thrust into a precarious situation by one of his aides this week. One of the democrat’s political advisers, Josh Drayton, has admitted to accepting gifts from marijuana lobbyist Nate Bradley, including one or more vape pens, edibles, and accessories.
A Chance Meeting That Led to Vape Pens
Bradley encountered Drayton in an unplanned meeting on the street. Bradley notified Drayton that he’d just received a new shipment of vape pens and asked Drayton to accompany him to his upstairs office in the California Cannabis Industry Association building. Drayton acquiesced. If there was any doubt as to the men’s familiarity with one another, Bradley was then said to have asked, “Do you have the battery still?” before gifting Drayton with a new battery specifically equipped for vape pens. In addition, Bradley gifted at least one cartridge designed for the devices containing a gram of hash oil as well as a package of THC-infused espresso beans. All up, the gifts were estimated to run in the range of $85.00.
The Proposed Education of Senator Kevin de Leòn
While this incident maybe an embarrassing association for de Leòn, it gets worse. While accepting the gift of vape pens and accessories from Bradley, Drayton was quoted as saying that de Leòn “really needs to be educated”, confirming “he just wants to stay away from this.” He then vowed to Bradley that he’d do his part in turning de Leòn around on his stance regarding a proposed bill that would benefit Bradley’s businesses within the marijuana industry.
Legal But Not Necessarily Acceptable
While the California Political Reform Act clearly opposes direct employees of state legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists exceeding $10 in a monthly period, Drayton and his attorney have found a way around the law. Since Drayton is not technically a direct employee of de Leòn, he is not required by the California Political Reform Act to communicate any gifts that he was granted. Drayton and his attorney are quick to distance themselves from any conflict of interest, pointing out that Drayton is actually in the employment of the Democratic Party of California.
While it would seem the vape pens can remain safely in Drayton’s pocket, political ethics authorities argue that, while not a direct legal violation, Drayton’s actions are exemplary of specific behavior the California Political Reform Act is designed to prohibit. Drayton’s acceptance of vape pens may not have been met with such scrutiny were de Leòn not a key player in the 2016 bill in which Bradley has a sizeable stake. Though Drayton has backed up his claims that he is not a direct employee of de Leòn, his role still finds him advising de Leòn; a role that should be free from compromise. Drayton’s full conversation with Bradley only draws the parallels to political corruption more boldly.
While de Leòn has yet to comment on Drayton’s actions, Drayton will face no legal repercussions for his acceptance of the vape pens and other marijuana-based gifts since no law was breached. However, it’s unclear if Drayton will be allowed by the Democratic Party of California to continue advising de Leòn or whether Bradley’s gifts to Drayton will actually have an adverse effect on de Leòn’s standing on the 2016 bill to legalize marijuana in the state of California for recreational use.