Election

Marijuana Business Owner Wanda James Takes Late Lead in CU Board of Regents Primary

Marijuana business owner Wanda James is running for District 1's empty seat in CU's Board of Regents.
Marijuana business owner Wanda James is running for District 1's empty seat in CU's Board of Regents. Courtesy of Wanda James
Voting ended at 7 p.m. on June 28 in Colorado's primary election, but a Democratic slot for the University of Colorado Board of Regents remains a tightly contested race.

As of noon on June 30, marijuana business owner Wanda James was leading attorney Johnnie Nguyen by 537 votes for the chance to run as a Democrat for the District 1 seat on the CU Board of Regents. That's a lead of about 0.8 percent, according to the Colorado Secretary of State, which is just over the 0.05 percent margin that would qualify for a recount — but there were still almost 20,000 ballots left to be counted.

The two candidates have traded the lead since voting stopped, with James closing a gap of around 1,000 votes late last night and moving ahead. She says she's confident of her chances now.

"I feel good about it. I really do," James says. "We started off a little behind, but every drop of ballots has gone increasingly toward us." The next vote count is will be released by 5 p.m. today, June 30.

James owns Denver dispensary Simply Pure, as well as a marijuana business consulting firm, and was one of the first licensed Black business owners in Colorado's marijuana industry. And whether she's the nominee or Nguyen, an openly gay attorney and second-generation Vietnamese-American, winds up besting her, James believes that a Democratic nominee will ultimately win the district, which is primarily based in Denver.

Either way, she also thinks that the CU Board of Regents will benefit from the diversity.

"I think it's important the two people vying for a Board of Regents position at a predominantly white and rich school are a Black woman who sells weed and a young, gay Asian lawyer," she says. "The CU system needs to be more welcoming to people. The administration needs to do a better job of making all faculty and staff feel valued."

Constitutionally charged with general supervision of the University of Colorado and its funding and appropriations, the Board of Regents oversees tuition pricing as well as a $5.5 billion annual budget that covers CU Boulder as well as the University of Colorado Denver, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, University of Colorado- Anschutz Medical Campus and Children's Hospital Colorado.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Amy Naes, who ran unopposed.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell