On Thursday morning, a single Facebook post started a boycott of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo, scheduled for mid-September in Los Angeles this year. By Friday afternoon, several prominent members of the marijuana industry had noticed it. The boycott is yet more fallout from President Trump’s defense of neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the Charlottesville incident.
The Minority Cannabis Business Association, or MCBA, announced via Facebook on Thursday its withdrawal from the expo to protest Roger Stone’s presence as a keynote speaker. A self-confessed political prankster, Stone is a longtime advisor and mentor to President Trump, despite some nasty racial incidents in his history. He is also extremely vocal about his support for marijuana legalization.
The MCBAs Thursday Facebook announcement had this to say, “As a result of the Cannabis World Congress 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 is no excuse not to do better.” From there, a large-scale boycott began.
Later on Thursday, the Cannabis Industry Journal made its own announcement, stating that it would “no longer be a media partner of any CWCBExpo events, unless they remove Roger Stone from the keynote slot. In choosing Roger Stone to keynote, the CWCBExpo is making a Faustian bargain and we do not believe this is right. We need to stand by our morals, as the ends do not justify the means.”
It continued to say, “The cannabis industry is no place for racism and we would like to see Roger Stone removed from the keynote position at CWCBExpo.” Some considered it blatant hypocrisy and Facebook exploded into an online warzone. Managing partner of the CWCBExpo, Scott Giannotti, replied to the post, addressing Jesce Horton, leader of the MCBA, directly:
“How convenient MCBA is promoting CWCBExpo’s biggest competitor, NCIA, who hosts ALL WHITE CONFERENCES. Meanwhile, CWCBExpo works hard at producing the most politically and culturally diverse conference program in the cannabis industry, but we are racists? Ok, lol. I will put our show guide up against NCIA’s any day you want and show you how dumb you people are.”
That statement did not go down well with people. One of the marijuana industry’s most revered entrepreneurs, Wanda James, responded by saying simply that “this is going big.” Other leaders rallied to support the MCBA’s stance and withdrew from the conference themselves. These included Amanda Reiman, former manager of the California Policy Alliance and now vice-president of community relations at Flow Kana, and co-founder of Aunt Zelda’s, Mara Gordon.
For a long time now, many marijuana activists have felt uneasy about Stone’s presence. However, others consider him a means of finding common ground between liberals and conservatives on the issue of legalization. Trump’s words and actions over the last week shook this uneasy alliance, and ever since, more and more feel it taboo to invite a close advisor to Trump, such as Stone, to cannabis events.
What began as a good-faith way to bridge the political divide is now a show of tacit approval of Trump’s controversial opinions on race and violence. Kaliko Castille explained the feelings of many in the MCBA camp best, summarizing their views clearly to Weed News:
“Maybe Roger Stone is not a racist, but you know what is just as bad as being a racist? Using other people’s racism as a means to achieve your own political ends. Plenty of well-intentioned conservatives are coming around on our issue who do not flirt with racism to make their point. If you want a principled conservative with political connections to speak at your events, invite Grover Norquist.”
In summary of this point, it read, “I do not 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.” The boycott is gaining momentum quickly online. The Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo will need to decide if keeping Stone as keynote speaker is worth the fight.