A Minority Cannabis Business Association boycott of Roger Stone has led to an exodus of exhibitors and speakers from the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo set for Sept. 13-15 in Los Angeles, California. Stone, a former campaign strategist for President Donald Trump, was invited to speak at the event after launching the bi-partisan United States Cannabis Coalition in June.
A Change.org petition has also been launched urging the expo to “Disown Roger Stone.” According to an LA Weekly report, Bonita “Bo” Money, a co-signer of the petition, indicated that 30 speakers and exhibitors have dropped out, calling Stone’s inclusion “horrible timing” following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Stone’s position on cannabis is positive but does not excuse his hateful statements and actions taken against women, people of color, Jewish people and other vulnerable populations,” the petition, which has reached half its signature goal as of 8 a.m., states. “Inviting Mr. Stone to speak to the crowd, especially as we see the rise of overt racism and anti-Semitism, is an affront to the very movement you purport to promote, the industry and all who are involved.”
The petition, which lists some of Stone’s “hateful statements,” is signed by several major players in the industry, including New Frontier Data, the Marijuana Business Association, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Jesce Horton, co-founder and chairman of the MCBA, said Stone should be automatically disqualified from speaking at the event due to his work on the campaign of President Richard Nixon, who launched the so-called War on Drugs. Furthermore, Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak at the event and Stone once referred to Sharpton as a “professional Negro.”
“If we’re going to make this a better industry, we have to be careful about the compromises that we make,” Horton said in an email to LA Weekly, “To prop up someone with such a history of racist and misogynist rhetoric as a keynote speaker at this event makes it impossible for MCBA to be involved.”
The Drug Policy Alliance, who announced they were withdrawing their sponsorship from the event due to Stone’s inclusion, said they made the decision “to stand in solidarity” with their “allies and community partners.”
In an open response to the petition, organizers at the CWCB Expo defended Stone’s inclusion, writing:
From its inception four years ago, the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition’s mission has been to provide an open forum for the advancement and growth of this industry. To achieve this goal we always have been inclusionary and have provided an open and unbiased, educational and business platform for the diverse voices and opinions in this industry to be heard.
Roger Stone is a proponent of cannabis legalization. He has created a non-profit, bi-partisan organization to advance the legalization of cannabis. Roger Stone has assured us that his Los Angeles Keynote Address will be on point with our stated mission, as it was this past June when he delivered his Keynote at CWCBExpo in New York. Mr. Stone will be present at CWCBExpo in Los Angeles, before and after his keynote, to have an open dialogue with our attendees.
Not everyone is on board with the Expo’s “inclusionary” stance, however. In a post on Facebook, David Murét of Viridian Staffing wrote: “CWCBE is more than free to make terrible business decisions and reveal to the industry and movement where they’re willing to stand when the chips are down. Likewise, it is totally legitimate and in-keeping with respect for free speech for current and future speakers, exhibitors and sponsors to vote with their wallets and feet by choosing to have no part of it.”
The calls for Stone’s removal from the CWCB Expo’s lineup have highlighted a growing rift in the cannabis industry: the clash between white collar capitalists and the civil rights activists who created the opportunity for this industry to exist in the first place.