A letter to the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition
Ed. Note: The following is a copy of an email sent by Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) Commissioner Shaleen Title, writing on her personal behalf, to Christine Ianuzzi of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBE), in response to that company’s soliciting the commissioner to participate in their upcoming Boston convention as a keynote speaker. As a frame of reference, in August 2017 DigBoston contributor Mike Crawford covered the controversy around CWCBE Boston’s extending a speaking invitation to political pariah Roger Stone, a move that spurred a boycott by members of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, among others. Title’s letter to CWCBE appears below, unedited and with permission from the commissioner.
Dear Ms. Ianuzzi,
Thank you for inviting me to serve as a keynote speaker at your convention. I’m curious if you are aware that I helped lead a boycott of this same event last year. When a group of advocates of color initially raised concerns about your choice to honor Roger Stone, your company representative referred to us as “dumb” and “you people.”
Only after a widespread backlash that saw numerous sponsors withdraw in horror, threatening your financial success, did you uninvite Mr. Stone. Even then, you dismissed the entire conversation as a “distraction” to the “growth and legalization of the cannabis industry.” You took no responsibility, demonstrated no understanding or reflection, made no commitment to improve, and failed entirely to recognize that activists fought for decades and risked their freedom to fight the unjust laws whose repeal now makes possible your event and your profits.
So no, absent a demonstrated commitment to improve, you may not use my name or my credibility towards repairing your damaged reputation. I am unpersuaded by your ludicrous suggestion that it is “critical” for me to use your platform to discuss the future of cannabis. But, I can make some recommendations if you are sincere about putting in the necessary work to become a respected member of the cannabis community.
If you are willing to make an effort to move forward constructively, here are some suggestions for how to start:
- Train your company representatives in bias and cultural sensitivity.
- Promote diversity in your staff and in the line-up at your events.
- Ensure that social-justice perspectives are represented throughout the various topics to be discussed at your convention.
- Allocate a portion of the event proceeds to harm reduction efforts, such as bail funds.
- Invite a formerly incarcerated person as your keynote speaker to discuss how the drug war has affected them.
Should your company make a good faith effort to take such steps, people whose work in the cannabis industry and legalization movement is centered on social justice will be much more likely to accept your invitations to speak at next year’s event, if there is one.