A group of cannabis business leaders, advocates and activists are boycotting the upcoming Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo event being held in Los Angeles next month. The push against the convention comes after the event named Donald Trump advisor Roger Stone as the Expo’s keynote speaker.
Roger Stone, a self-described “political dirty trickster,” helped push Donald Trump from irrelevant celebrity to the highest office in the nation, is a longtime marijuana advocate and recently helped found the United States Cannabis Coalition, a group aiming to convince Trump to lean towards legalization. But for everything Roger Stone has done to try and turn cannabis into a mainstream money-maker, countless incidents of racist and sexist bigotry and a seeming lack of moral guidance have made him a controversial figure to say the least.
According to Weed News, in the wake of last weekends white-supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia and president Trump’s subsequent “both sides” speeches, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) wanted to be very clear about their opposition to Stone’s prime spot at the upcoming conference.
“As a result of CWC choosing this guy as their keynote speaker, MCBA has decided to withdraw from attendance and speaking roles at this conference. CWC, you know better so there's no excuse not to do better.” The group posted on Facebook.
Joining the MCBA in their stand against Stone, the Cannabis Industry Journal has also announced that it would be joining the boycott and removing themselves as an event media partner if the keynote speaker was not replaced.
“In choosing Roger Stone to keynote, the CWCBExpo is making a Faustian bargain and we don’t believe this is right.” Cannabis Industry Journal editors declared. “We need to stand by our morals; the ends don’t justify the means. The cannabis industry is no place for racism and we would like to see Roger Stone removed from the keynote position at CWCBExpo.”
The boycott has also been picked up by industry heavy hitters Mara Gordon, co-founder of Aunt Zelda’s Oils and former Drug Policy Alliance California policy manager and current vice president for community relations at Flow Kana, Amanda Reiman.
Instead of taking the criticism and checking America’s current social climate, CWCBExpo managing partner Scott Giannotti instead chose to lash out at the MCBA, and the group’s lead Jesce Horton in particular.
“How convenient MCBA is promoting CWCBExpo’s biggest competitor NCIA, who hosts ALL WHITE CONFERENCES.” Giannotti posted on the MCBA Facebook page. “Meanwhile CWCBExpo works hard at producing the most politically and culturally diverse conference program in the cannabis industry. But we’re racists ok lol I’ll put our show guide up against NCIA’s any day you want and show you how dumb you people are.”
Maybe someone should have told Giannotti that using terms like “you people” directed towards a group of black business owners wasn’t the best way to defend yourself against accusations of racial insensitivity.
There’s still a month left for the convention to remove Stone from the schedule or face further fallout, but an additional statement from a separate managing partner at CWCBE, Dan Humiston, suggests that the group has no plans to curtail Stone’s impending presence.
“Our objective as a show producer in the cannabis industry is we are trying to do whatever we can to help grant access to this plant for anybody that needs it.” Humiston wrote. “And to do that we feel that we have to be as inclusionary as we can possibly be. It is nothing more than that. I think there are some real benefits to the cannabis movement that will be gained by getting as many people under our tent as we can. Its funny how this plant brings people together who aren’t together under any other topic; it creates the strangest of bedfellows. The more dialogue and more opportunities to speak with people we can’t agree on any other topic with, the better. I think he is an asset to this movement. He has raised a lot of money. He is pushing Jeff Sessions really hard and he’s got Donald Trump’s ear.”
Still, activists like MCBA’s Horton are not convinced that Stone, or the people paying him to speak, would ever actually stop and listen, much less fight for the community he represents.
“[Giannotti] said we made this choice because we are in cahoots with his main competitor and not simply because it was a poor decision on his part to prop up someone who is trying to take advantage of our industry, after spending so many years supporting the exact policies that put so many of our people in prison.” Hotron wrote on Facebook. “We WILL make this a better industry, not another industry.”