On Thursday, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) put up a Facebook post announcing its withdrawal from the expo due to the presence of Roger Stone, who is booked as a keynote speaker. Stone, a self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, is a longtime mentor and advisor to President Trump, and has a long history of ugly racial incidents in his past. He’s also a vocal advocate of cannabis legalization.
The MCBA posted this on Thursday: “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.”
Later that day, the Cannabis Industry Journal announced that it would “no longer be a media partner of any CWCBExpo events, unless they remove Roger Stone from the keynote slot.”
The Journal editors added:
“In choosing Roger Stone to keynote, the CWCBExpo is making a Faustian bargain and we don’t believe this is right. 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.”
Scott Giannotti, a managing partner of the CWCBExpo, replied in a post addressed to Minority Cannabis Business Association leader Jesce Horton: “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’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.”
That did not go over well. Wanda James, one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, responded: “this is going big.”
Other leaders voicing their support for the MCBA’s position and withdrawing from the conference included Aunt Zelda’s co-founder Mara Gordon, as well as former Drug Policy Alliance California policy manager Amanda Reiman, who’s now vice president for community relations at Flow Kana.
Stone’s presence has long made many cannabis activists uneasy. But he’s also been seen by some as a symbol of the common ground that conservatives and liberals can find on the issue of legalization. That uneasy alliance was shaken by Trump’s words and actions in the past week. For many, inviting a close Trump advisor like Stone to a cannabis event jumped a lane over the past seven days. What was once seen as a good-faith instance of reaching across the political aisle became a show of tacit support for Trump’s toxic views on race and violence.
Kaliko Castille summed up the feeling of many in the MCBA camp in Weed News earlier today:
“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.”