As a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Mr. Joseph Erich Pearson serves as a head honcho to the rainbow mafia of the cannabis industry across the State of California. With close ties to child molesting politicians, frequent lawsuits, and a criminal past for conducting illegal cannabis grows, local residents question how he continues to elevate within the industry. Why is Mr. Pearson continually one of the County of Sonoma’s Board of Supervisors lead consultants regarding marijuana despite his questionable endeavors?
Flashing back to the year 2011, Mr. Pearson was arrested for operating seemingly illegal cannabis grows within the County of Sonoma, and faced three felony charges. According to The Press Democrat, “among his Bay Area and statewide efforts on the topic, Pearson is one year into a two-year appointment to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Medicinal Marijuana Advisory Board. Neither Pearson nor his co-defendants could be reached for comment.”
Within the article, the former Mayor of Sebastopol and co-founder of Peace in Medicine dispensary, Mr. Robert Jacob was heavily featured. Santa Rosa’s Piece in Medicine eventually merged with SPARC, as Mr. Pearson and Mr. Jacob maintained a close knit partnership over the years. Mr. Jacob eventually went on to serve as the CEO of SPARC.
In January, 2023, Mr. Jacob pleaded no contest in a child sex abuse case. As cited from the Bay Area Reporter:
“A gay former Sebastopol mayor and cannabis entrepreneur was convicted of six felony crimes involving the sexual abuse of a child.
Robert Jacob, 45, pleaded no contest to the six counts in Sonoma County Superior Court on January 20.
Jacob had served on the Sebastopol City Council from 2012 to 2016 and was selected mayor by his colleagues in 2013.
The crimes Jacob pleaded to include a number of activities, from contacting the victim with the intent to commit a specific offense and ultimately committing acts of sexual abuse against the victim, who was under the age of 15. As a result of Jacob’s plea, five other felony counts were dismissed, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office website.
As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported:
“Jacob is also the co-founder of Peace and Medicine, Sonoma’s first cannabis dispensary, which later merged with SPARC, a San Francisco-based dispensary founded by Erich Pearson, a gay man. After the merger, Jacob served as president of SPARC, although the affiliation ended several years ago.”
As of August 2022, the City of Sausalito Administration published a riveting announcement regarding Mr. Pearson and business partner Paul Austin.
“One of two voter-sponsored measures related to retail cannabis in Sausalito will be removed from local ballots after Superior Court Judge Andrew E. Sweet ruled that the measure is invalid because its two proponents are not Sausalito residents.
The Safe and Fair Regulation of Cannabis Initiative submitted by Paul Austin and Joseph Erich Pearson had gathered more than the required 570 signatures to place it on the ballot for the General Municipal Election on November 8. However, Judge Sweet held that the California Constitution reserves the power to propose local ballot initiatives to the electors of that jurisdiction. The measure’s two proponents, Austin and Pearson, are residents of Marin City and Sonoma, respectively.
Because the measure’s proponents are not Sausalito residents, the court held that the initiative is invalid and ordered the City of Sausalito and the County of Marin to “take all necessary steps to prevent the initiative from being placed on the ballot for the upcoming election.”
It is unclear how the initiative will be removed from the ballot. A county elections official was also named in the decision, and the county is responsible for printing, publishing, and distributing the ballots.
Measure K, the Safe Regulation of Cannabis Initiative, remains on the November ballot. The full text of the measure and an impartial analysis drafted by Sausalito’s City Attorney are available on the City website.”
To go further down the rabbit hole, Mr. Pearson has been the defendant in multiple lawsuits in recent years. On 03/23/2022 Oak Hom Wong & Laura Hom Wong Trust, filed a commercial eviction lawsuit against BAY PACIFIC NETWORKS, INC, DBA SPARC. This case was filed in San Francisco County Superior Courts, San Francisco County Civic Center Courthouse located in San Francisco, California. The case status is not classified by the court.
On July 23, 2021, a 2022 6-7 stipulation to Set Aside Default Judgement was filed involving a dispute between Commercial Collections of America, LLC, and Farmparc, LLC, for 09: Unlimited Other Collections in the District Court of Sonoma County. Per the Secretary of State business listings, Mr. Pearson is the registered agent to Farmparc, LLC.
In 2019, Mr. Pearson founded Cannabis Business Association of Sonoma County (CBASC), a local nonprofit advocacy group. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has repeatedly relied on guidance from the charity to alter cultivation taxation and associated matters. Per the Office of the Attorney General, the mutual benefit charity does not appear to be registered with the IRS.
In 2015, a consent judgment was entered into by and between plaintiff, MICHAEL DIPIRRO (“DiPirro”), and defendants, Bay Pacific Networks, Inc., dba SPARC (“BPN”) and Eaze Solutions, Inc., dba “Eaze.” Defendants were ordered to pay civil penalties pursuant to health and safety codes, along with requirements for future product labeling, point-of-sale warnings, membership agreements, etc.
On May 5, 2017, an important press release was published in Dope Magazine. Mr. Jacob made a statement regarding his new position with 421 Group and departure from SPARC/Peace in Medicine.
“Rohnert Park, CA. – May 22, 2017 — Erich Pearson, the founder and CEO of SPARC, and, Robert Jacob, the founder of Peace in Medicine have announced that as of May 22, 2017, Peace in Medicine of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol will both be named SPARC.
Both brands represent the same compassionate values when it comes to member services, high quality medicine, and a professional operation appreciated by neighbors, residents, regulators, and patients alike. This shared vision has and will continue to benefit the staff and members of both organizations, now coming together under one name – SPARC. The transition to the SPARC name will occur over the next several months and is expected to be seamless for patients and employees.
“To ensure both outfits survive and remain competitive under the new regulatory framework, we felt it important to complete the integration that started 2 years ago and unite under one brand,” enthused Pearson. “SPARC will continue to model best practices and develop innovative protocols to serve not only our members, but the cannabis industry as a whole.”
By unifying our brands, the SPARC and Peace in Medicine families together will amplify their mission to bring sustainable, affordable, and quality-controlled medicine to qualified patients through professional and transparent dispensing and cultivation practices. This unification further demonstrates how responsible professional cannabis collectives like SPARC and Peace in Medicine can unite under a community-based approach to bring the best results to our employees and members.
“SPARC has been a part of the Sonoma County community for many years, just under a different name,” added Pearson. “We’re proud to bring the whole family together under one name, SPARC.”
Erich Pearson will continue as CEO — a role he began a year ago when Mr. Jacob took a leave of absence to care for his late-mother. Upon her recent death in April, Mr. Jacob stepped down as the Executive Director.
“Robert has built an exceptional team at Peace in Medicine and his unfortunate departure has saddened us all,” said Pearson. “We are so lucky to have a group of dedicated and experienced professionals with whom I will work closely to honor the core values established by his leadership.”
“Building Peace in Medicine and serving as the Executive Director was a service of the heart and has been among the greatest privileges in my career,” remarked Jacob. “I am confident Pearson’s ability to position the SPARC family to achieve our shared vision.”
“I am proud of how far local and state cannabis regulations have come. We are in a new era.” said Jacob. “Emblematic of this I am joining 421 Group, a local cannabis consultancy, to continue good work for the community.”
According to a 2021 North Bay Business Journal article, “stemming from a threatened raise in state cannabis cultivation taxes, the Cannabis Business Association of Sonoma County and the Sonoma Valley Cannabis Enthusiasts have joined forces and plan to ask for ‘immediate tax reform’ from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 7…’Our industry is in deep trouble. We’re impacted on several important fronts. Our industry is taxed like no other, we have few retail outlets available to us, the illicit market continues to boom, and we face unparalleled regulatory hurdles,’ association co-founder and Erich Pearson, CEO of SPARC in Santa Rosa, said in a statement. ‘Frankly, what we’re experiencing is a market collapse.’”
421 Group was largely involved with lobbying for tax reform at the state level and advocacy at the county level to persuade a decrease in taxes by the Board of Supervisors. Their team is closely tied to local government as CEO Craig Litwin is the former Mayor of Sebastopol and Partner Herman Hernandez is the Board President of the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) and former Field Director and/or Campaign Manager to Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and Senator Mike McGuire.
As recently referenced within The California Globe, SPARC belongs to the Big Rock portfolio, along with PlumpJack, Governor Newsom’s hospitality corporation. Other brands housed within the portfolio were directly founded by immediate relatives of County Supervisors and lobbyists for the Governor.
Would the average private citizen be granted permits and awarded contracts with a past of such misconduct? Does Mr. Pearson have special privileges within the cannabis sector as a colleague, friend or relative to those in high places? Do any of these circumstances and outcomes seem odd? Why does the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office refuse to answer the public’s questions? I have been labeled as “incompetent,” “misinformed” and “relentless” by my local government officers for the inquiries I bring forth. However, I do not believe that these questions are mine alone.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” -Albert Einstein
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