If you woke up from a coma over the last week and turned on CNN, it might seem as if you were transported back to the 1950’s and 60’s.
One week ago, hundreds of white supremacists, KKK members and Nazi sympathizers gathered on the University of Virginia campus wielding tiki torches (with no sense of irony) to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee.
Before you think this was a peaceful protest (despite what the President says), VICE News has a put out a 20 minute episode of what unfolded that night, showing the crowds of white supremacists chanting things like “Jews will not replace us.”
The next day, the crowd returned for a scheduled march (armed with guns, shields, and metal pipes) which ended up erupting into violence, leaving one counter-protester dead and dozens more injured when a white supremacist drove his car through the crowd of counter-protesters (something that has been advocated for on Fox News and various other right-wing outlets).
What does this have to do with weed?
Recently the organizers of the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo invited Roger Stone (someone who is partly responsible for our political climate) to participate as a keynote speaker at their upcoming event in LA and in the process has begun to alienate prominent members of the cannabis industry.
For those who are unaware of who Roger Stone is, he is a right-wing political operative who the New Yorker’s Jeffery Toobin calls the “sinister Forest Gump of American politics”.
From being the youngest person to testify at the Watergate hearings (at age 19), to starting an infamous lobbying group that would become known as the torturer’s lobby for representing foreign dictators and their interests to the American government, to advising Donald Trump for several decades, Roger Stone represents everything that is deplorable about American politics.
Aside from helping to fan the flames of racial tensions behind the scenes of the Republican party over the last 40 years, Stone also has a history of tweeting racist remarks. During the 2016 campaign Stone was banned from CNN after calling one of their regular contributors a “stupid negro”.
With this sort of background and the current political climate, it’s mind boggling that any cannabis brand would want to associate with Roger Stone. When pushed by Aaron Biros of Cannabis Industry Journal whether CWCBE was going to retain Stone as their keynote speaker, one of the managing partners at CWCBE Dan Humiston gave this statement:
“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. 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.”
However, when Jesce Horton the Chairman at Minority Cannabis Business Association informed CWCBE that he would be withdrawing from attendance and his speaking role at the event, another managing partner at CWCBE, Scott Gianotti told Horton that he wants to show “how dumb you people are” for backing out of the conference.
There have been other prominent figures who have also withdrawn their support for CWCBE, including Dr. Amanda Reiman, formerly of Drug Policy Alliance and now of Flow Kana, as well as Mara Gordon of Aunt Zelda’s.
In their blog about the subject, Cannabis Industry Journal had this to say:
“We at Cannabis Industry Journal would like to voice our support for the MCBA and join them in their withdrawal. We will no longer be a media partner of any CWCBExpo events, unless they remove Roger Stone from the keynote slot.”
After the news spreads about Stone’s appearance and Gianotti’s response to the MCBA, it’s quite possible that there will be a mass exodus yet to come.
Cannabis legalization at the federal level is an inevitability (as long as we keep up the pressure), our industry should stop acting so thirsty by inviting every C-list celebrity & right-wing asshole to speak at our events.
We have an unparalleled opportunity to create an industry that reflects our shared values, none of which are greed, self-indulgence and winning at all costs — the type of values Roger Stone’s actions have reflected over the decades.
Maybe Roger Stone isn’t a racist, but you know what’s just as bad as being a racist? Using other people’s racism as a means to achieve your own political ends. There are plenty of well-intentioned conservatives that are coming around on our issue who don’t flirt with racism to make their point. If you want a principled conservative with political connections to speak at your events, invite Grover Norquist.
I don’t care how connected Stone is to Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump, if our industry decides to buddy up to people who have blood on their hands, there is no way for us to come out clean.
I really hope the CWCBE does the right thing and drops Roger Stone from their lineup. This industry is too small and our memories are too long to forget this tone deaf decision.