Roger Stone's Presence at L.A. Pot Expo Sparks Exodus

Roger Stone's Presence at L.A. Pot Expo Sparks Exodus
File photo by Timothy Norris/L.A. Weekly

Multiple exhibitors and speakers have pulled out of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBE), scheduled to take place in Los Angeles Sept. 13-15, as a result of its inclusion of onetime Donald Trump campaign strategist Roger Stone.

The boycott was initiated by the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA). Several minority entrepreneurs also started a Change.org petition calling on the expo to drop Stone. It was co-signed by big names in the business, including New Frontier Data, the Marijuana Business Association and the law firm of Greenspoon Marder. Co-signer Bonita "Bo" Money, who has organized women of color who are looking for opportunities in the business, says 30 exhibitors and speakers have pulled out of the event. She called Stone's inclusion "horrible timing" given the background of racial division sparked by Trump's support of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month.

"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," according to the Change.org petition.

Additionally, the nonprofit legalization force known as the Drug Policy Alliance has dropped out of the conference. "The Drug Policy Alliance has decided to stand in solidarity with our allies and community partners and withdraw our sponsorship of the upcoming Los Angeles and Boston expos that feature Roger Stone as a speaker," Ellen Flenniken, DPA's managing director of development, said via email.

Jesce Horton, co-founder and chairman of MCBA, said Stone's history of racist rhetoric and his campaign work with President Richard M. Nixon, who kicked off the war on drugs in earnest, should disqualify him from speaking at the expo. Last year, it was reported that Stone called the Rev. Al Sharpton, who's also scheduled to speak at the event, a "professional Negro."

Legalization advocates have blamed the so-called war on drugs for mass incarceration. And proponents of California's successful recreational pot initiative, Proposition 64, argued that it would open the door to people of color — disproportionately arrested for narcotics — who want in on the pot business.

"If we’re going to make this a better industry, we have to be careful about the compromises that we make," Horton says. He added, via email, "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 exodus gained momentum when conference organizer and Trump supporter Scott Giannotti responded to calls for a boycott with a Facebook reply in which he said he would prove "how dumb you people are" for abandoning the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition in favor of other conventions that he argued were less diverse.

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"I was shocked," says Money of Women Abuv Ground.

We reached out to the CWCBE, Sharpton, Stone and to fellow scheduled speaker Virgil Grant, the leader of the largest group of marijuana businesses in Los Angeles, the Southern California Coalition, but we did not get immediate responses.


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