The Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo coming to Los Angeles in September has turned from one of many cannabusiness conventions to a controversy, thanks to longtime Donald Trump advisor Roger Stone and his role as the event’s keynote speaker. Now, after more than a week of back and forth between CWCBE officials and boycott leaders, the Minority Cannabis Business Association, Stone has finally weighed in for himself on the ganjapreneur gathering’s lightening guest list.
According to the LA Weekly, 17 speakers and seven sponsors have already dropped out of the September Expo, citing Stone’s racially charged past and the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia in their opposition to the keynote address.
After a series of social media blow-ups from the event’s managing partners, Stone’s newest political partner and Florida’s most vocal medical marijuana industry advocate, John Morgan, tried his hand at quelling the tension, making the argument that Stone has significant pull with the president and could help affect change at the highest level.
In his own defense, Stone chose to abandon Morgan’s talking points and instead assume the tone of his prized pupil, president Trump. Even going as far as to blame the boycott on left wing media head David Brock, the founder of the news website Media Matters America.
"To be clear this manufactured 'boycott' is agitprop astro-turf, with all the usual trolls and bots featured in a heavy-handed but obvious smear campaign waged by David Brock and his minions," Stone wrote. "I will not be silenced in the fight for states' right to legalize a medicinally beneficial plant that helps millions of Americans."
For the MCBA and the rest of the boycott’s backers, the insinuation that the backlash is part of some media conspiracy, instead of a genuine expression of the nation’s fraught racial tension, is more than absurd, it’s insulting.
"Mr. Stone's assertion that this is a smear campaign waged by his enemies is exactly the type of dismissive behavior he has displayed toward communities of color and women for years," Jesce Horton, co-founder and chairman of MCBA, told the Weekly. "The idea that cannabis business owners and activists can't assess for ourselves his deplorable rhetoric and his camp's self-serving intentions in the cannabis industry is sad."
In addition to the businesses and speakers that have dropped out, a petition has begun circulating on Change.org reiterating the call for the Expo to pull Stone. After one week online, the petition has over 600 of the requested 1,000 signatures.
Like Stone himself, the event’s organizers have been brash in their responses and have at every turn continued to stand by their keynote speaker.