With upcoming events in Los Angeles and Boston, the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBE) is facing a boycott first proposed by influential leaders in the cannabis industry, among them members of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA). Their primary grievance is a single, truly awful keynote speaker, Roger Stone, a self-described political dirty trickster who, in one of his most recent ugly feats, helped Donald Trump win the White House.
Among other things, Stone is facing heat for his substantial record of racist and other insensitive remarks—“mandingo,” “professional Negro,” and “muff diver” among them—to criticize political opponents. It’s despicable stuff, and there’s no apparent end to it. Last week Stone said, “A politician who votes for it [the impeachment of President Trump] would be endangering their own life.”
As these things tend to go, CWCBE Managing Director Scott Giannotti only made matters worse with his response to the announced boycott of Stone. Attacking back on Facebook, he wrote that “you people” who are boycotting are “dumb,” attacked competitors, and argued that his conference is “the most politically and culturally diverse conference program in the cannabis industry.”
Before long, a #disownstone petition on change.org racked up hundreds of signatures, while a who’s who of national names also weighed in. In Boston, 4Front Ventures Founder and President Kris Krane, as well as Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project (the Washington, DC, org that largely funded the Mass legal initiative) are both supporting the boycott. As is the national drug reform organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
With his longtime buddy Trump in Washington, Stone’s play appears to be to get the president to approve medical marijuana on a federal level, which could result in a minimal number of those licenses being granted to elite operations—presumably, many with connections to Stone. Sort of like he did with casinos when his last crony occupied the highest office. From the Village Voice: “within days of Bush’s election,” Stone was invited “to serve on the Department of Interior transition working group—helping, in his own words, to staff its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Stone has since used this unannounced perch to market himself to tribes and developers from Louisiana to California, earning fat fees and contingent percentages of future casino revenue. Just two of the five deals examined by the Voice are projected to pay him at least $8 million, and perhaps as much as $13 million.”
In his own response to the boycott, Stone tweeted, “Boycott of my Sept #CWCBE 420 speech in LA is fabricated agit prop.”
Stone also wrote that the liberal accountability group Media Matters was behind the alleged conspiracy, and so I checked with local voices who fight for reform in Mass to see where they stood on the boycott.
On my WEMF Radio show, The Young Jurks, Boston City Councilor and candidate for mayor Tito Jackson didn’t hesitate to support the boycott. “Let your green speak for you,” Jackson said. “You should not be placing your dollars to support a show like that. This is not only about the minority cannabis community, it’s also about the majority cannabis community, showing where you stand and standing with your brothers and sisters. You have an opportunity to stand up. Roger Stone cannot and should not be looked [at] like an expert in all things in cannabis.”
Said Cambridge State Rep. Mike Connolly: “I support members of the cannabis community and join in rejecting the presence of a bigoted racist and misogynist in the role of keynote speaker.”
Cambridge City Councilor Jan Devereux, who has supported and helped open dispensaries in her city, called Stone “notoriously shady.”
Daniel Fishman, one of the leading Libertarian Party members in the state and a talk show host on WRKO, didn’t mince words. “Roger Stone represents [the] worst crony capitalism goals of big marijuana,” said Fishman, who is clearly not funded by George Soros. “We see now the monied interests trying to get richer by using the power of government to grant a select few monopolies through licensing.”
Charles Laquidara, a legendary Boston radio host who worked for WBCN and later with WZLX, said, “I see nothing wrong with people not showing up for the nonevent. I also see nothing wrong with a nonviolent protest outside the door.”
Said Monica Cannon, founder of the group Violence in Boston: “Roger Stone coming to the city of Boston is another indicator of racism, misogyny, and sexism being accepted in this city by people in power. Using cannabis as a form of blind patriotism to gain support. Roger Stone is a racist white supremacist and every time we allow people like him into this city it sends a clear message that they are welcomed, and they are not.”
Shaleen Title, a local MCBA member and co-drafter of the Yes on 4 initiative that legalized cannabis in Mass, added: “There is no room for hate in our space, which is already grappling with the ramifications of 45 years of the war on drugs. As more than 20 speakers and sponsors noted in their sign-on letter, 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 that CWCBE purports to promote.”
Adding to the pile, Stephen Mandile, founder of Veterans Alternative Healing and We Are Allies, said, “I support the boycott of Roger Stone. He is a relic, of an era of oppression and exclusion. There is no place for racism and sexism in society in 2017. The legal cannabis industry, as a relatively new industry, needs to be built with inclusion from every segment of society. We need to make sure it has the values of a united America, not divided by the hate of our nation’s past.”
Peter Bernard of the Mass Growers Advisory Council said, “I support this boycott and will not be attending the expo. Society has enough of his brand, and that sort of thinking has no place in the cannabis world. Mr. Stone should go back to the 1950s where he belongs. Maybe he can take [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions with him.”
And Beth Waterfall of Women Grow said, “Women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community—populations that Roger Stone has publicly and repeatedly insulted—have an opportunity like never before to create an industry and companies that are inclusive, compassionate, and environmentally and socially responsible. Mr. Stone, as a longtime advisor to our current president, has an ugly and very public track record of misogyny, racism, sexism, and willful ignorance that certainly should not be rewarded or celebrated with the privilege of presence on a cannabis convention stage.”
And yes, my team at The Young Jurks has joined the boycott.
Ed. note: The former publisher of DigBoston is an owner of NECANN, a DigBoston sponsor and another one of many cannabis conferences coming to Boston this year. One of the current owners and editors of DigBoston also currently serves on the board of NECANN.