Bill Rosendahl was the first openly gay politician to run for a Los Angeles City Council seat as such. But he also said he was the first elected official in the nation to come out as a medical marijuana patient.

Rosendahl, a beloved Venice and Mar Vista local, died at the age of 70 in early April following a four-year battle with cancer of the ureter.

A year after his 2012 cancer diagnosis, Rosendahl vacated the council seat he won in 2005. It was soon taken in an election by his longtime chief of staff, Mike Bonin. Rosendahl also declared in 2013 that he was “coming out of the cannabis closet.”

He said he used marijuana to treat neuropathy in his feet and later as a pain killer as he dealt with lower back pain caused by his late-stage cancer.

At the time he acknowledged the “political risk” of revealing his use. And he said that there’s still a stigma attached to being a cannabis patient — as if everyone who uses the drug is a recreational stoner.

Rosendahl said it was important for people like him to reveal their use — so that others could partake without the cloud of societal doubt. Marijuana, he said, was a viable alternative to addictive painkillers like opioids, which have sparked an overdose and addiction epidemic in the United States. The irony.

“He became an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana, which he used to combat the side effects of cancer treatments,” his office stated in announcing the councilman’s death.

“Rosendahl was an atypical politician,” it said. “He embraced his fiercest critics, championed the hot-button issues that many avoided, and almost always spoke extemporaneously, giving long speeches that routinely skewered sacred cows and even his fellow politicians. He rewarded constituents and cajoled fellow elected officials with fresh eggs from the dozens of chickens he raised at his Mar Vista home. Gifted with a boundless sense of optimism, Rosendahl imagined a politics of endless possibility, and was known by his signature exclamation: ‘Great! Great! Great! Great! Great!’”

Rosendahl championed the homeless and veterans, known to populate the streets of his Westside district. “He was perhaps most proud of securing the reburial of the remains of more than 1300 Gabrielino Tongva Native Americans discovered during the construction of Playa Vista,” his office stated.

The councilman created his public profile with a public affairs show on local cable. It seasoned him to the ways of local politics. He produced more than 3,000 programs in 16 years. He served in senior management at Adelphia Cable, Century Cablevision, Group W, and TelePrompter. But he was rarely a stranger to the politics game, having worked on presidential campaigns for Robert Kennedy, Fred Harris and George McGovern. He also served in the Army from 1969 to 1971. He had a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree from Saint Vincent College.

Rosendahl came out as gay in 1995 after his longtime partner, Christopher Lee Blauman, died from complications related to AIDS.

“Los Angeles and the world lost a giant of social justice — and I lost a wonderful friend,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “As a member of the Los Angeles City Council and a local broadcaster, Bill served Los Angeles with passion and distinction. He was one of the earliest and bravest voices for equality for the LGBT community, a staunch defender of workers’ rights, and the first openly gay man elected to our City Council. Most importantly, he was a decent and compassionate human being.”

About The Author

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Raul Duke has been working as a journalist in Southern California for two decades. The medical marijuana juggernaut is one of his many beats. He’s a longtime Westside resident who needs to renew his doctor’s recommendation soon. If you have news tips, reach out: raul@the420times.com

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