Former campaign adviser to President Trump Roger Stone has been dropped from the lineup of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) scheduled for Sept. 13-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Stone told L.A. Weekly he plans to sue organizers.
"Sad day for the First Amendment," he said via email. "The expo is in breach of contract. I will be suing them for $1 million. I will not be deterred from my efforts to persuade the president to preserve access to legal medicinal marijuana consistent with his pledge to the American people."
The CWCBExpo said in a statement that Stone's scheduled appearance had become a distraction.
"Following collaborative discussions with numerous partners, participants and interested parties who support the legalization of cannabis in an inclusive manner, Cannabis World Congress & Business Expositions is announcing that Roger Stone will no longer be featured as a keynote speaker at the upcoming CWCBExpo events in Los Angeles and Boston," organizers announced today. "The forums created by CWCBExpo are crucial to the growth and legalization of the cannabis industry and they supersede the distractions that have surrounded the events."
A spokesman for the expo had no comment regarding Stone's threat to sue.
Organizers of a boycott against the expo say they were in negotiations over the holiday weekend and this week to have Stone nixed from the event. Those lobbying for Stone's ouster included the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and the L.A.-based group Women Abuv Ground, led by cannabis entrepreneur Bonita "Bo" Money.
"We feel the decision to cancel Roger Stone as a keynote speaker was a wise and sound decision," Money said via email. "We cannot tolerate speakers that represent racism and sexism at any conference. Hopefully this experience will create change toward diversity and inclusion at all conferences moving forward."
Jesce Horton, MCBA's board chair, indicated that Stone's absence would set things back to normal. He wouldn't say, however, whether the expo boycott was officially over.
"This is a testament to the will of this industry to stand firmly on sound business principles," Horton said via email. "Roger Stone’s deplorable rhetoric was just a piece of our inability to be involved. More important is his history of advocating for regulations that work directly against an industry inclusive to small businesses and minority entrepreneurs. I look forward to working with CWCBE and support their decision to stand with us."
Stone, who also advised the campaigns of presidents Nixon and Reagan, yesterday denied that he was leaving the bill. "Not so," he told L.A. Weekly via email. "Have never even considered doing so. The issue is too important. Millions counting on continued legal access to medicinal marijuana and counting on the president to keep his pledge — while [Homeland Security Secretary John F.] Kelly is urging a crackdown and reigniting of the failed war on drugs."
The MCBA spearheaded a boycott that helped inspire a number of speakers and sponsors, including the Drug Policy Alliance, to drop out of the Los Angeles convention on the marijuana business. Despite private lobbying, the Rev. Al Sharpton was still slated as another top speaker at the mid-September event.
The groups opposed to Stone said he had a racist past (he once used the word "Negro" to describe Sharpton) and that his connection to Nixon, an architect of the war on drugs, should preclude his participation. Stone apologized for his remarks and said that he's long had a "libertarian streak" that holds thatdrug laws should be a matter for states to decide. Stone has also been a proponent of marijuana legalization.
The pot biz conference said in a statement that it is "wholly committed to promoting diverse business and economic opportunities in the cannabis industry by providing a united and welcoming environment for its exhibitors, sponsors, attendees and speakers."
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Last month. Stone told L.A. Weekly he believed the left-leaning website Media Matters for America and its founder, David Brock, were behind the boycott. Organizers of the protest rejected the notion.
The spokesman for the CWCBExpo said a replacement for Stone would be announced shortly. Minority groups also were unhappy with the response of expo organizer Scott Giannotti to initial calls for Stone's ouster. He had initially responded via Facebook that he would prove "how dumb you people are" for abandoning the expo while continuing to patronize conventions that he argued were less diverse.
Asked if, as rumors have had it, Giannotti might be out at CWCBExpo, the spokesman said that was a question for the conference's legal counsel.
This story was updated and rewritten at 2:34 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6, to reflect Stone's threat to sue. The headline was also changed.