A group of marijuana entrepreneurs launched a boycott against a cannabis business conference for hosting Roger Stone, a former aide to President Donald Trump and a longtime political consultant known for his divisive views, as a keynote speaker. Despite Stone's history of being a political trickster with ties going back to Nixon's Watergate scandal, he's also a longtime drug law reform advocate. The Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo, in a statement on Monday, said it will not back down to the boycott's demands of nixing Stone from the line up. Stone will give the conference's keynote speech in Los Angeles in September and in Boston in October.
Jesce Horton, the founder of Portland, Oregon-based marijuana cultivator Panacea Valley Gardens was scheduled to speak at the Cannabis World Congress next month but he cancelled and launched the boycott with a group of entrepreneurs to protest Stone's involvement as a speaker. Horton says the group is boycotting the conference because of Stone, who they view as a racist. Stone's connection to Trump, especially after the Charlottesville, Va., white-nationalist rally ended in violence and Trump's controversial response blaming both sides, solidified the boycott, Horton says.
"Our whole goal is to create a better industry, not just another industry" says Horton, explaining that the marijuana industry should be thoughtful about each person it supports.
Horton continues: "Propping someone up like Roger Stone just because he has the ear of Trump and Sessions, but what is he saying? What types of policies will he work to pass?"
Stone supports legalization--he helped John Morgan, a Democrat and big Clinton donor who underwrote Florida's medical marijuana law, lobby to get the bill passed this year. But Horton says Florida's industry is too restrictive for small business owners and favors the wealthy. "That's not what we want for the industry; we want an industry that works for small business, an industry that works for everybody," says Horton.
Stone's offensive nature is well documented on his Twitter feed. CNN and MSNBC banned Stone from appearing on either channel after he made racially charged and sexist comments.
Shanel Lindsay, a Massachusetts-based attorney and the founder of Ardent Cannabis, says she joined the boycott for a simple reason.
"The only way to come to a common understanding is if we hear from all types of people, but, there is a certain amount of decency and respect required," says Lindsay. "Stone calls people 'negroes' and 'c*nts' in public forums. That is the absence of respect."
Dan Humiston, one of the founders of Cannabis World Congress, told the Cannabis Industry Journal that Stone is an "asset" to the legalization movement. In July, Stone launched a nonprofit called the United States Cannabis Coalition, which Stone says is on a mission to make President Trump stay true to his campaign promise to leave marijuana laws to the states despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions' threats to clamp down on the industry.
Horton says he doesn't trust Stone to be a fair representative for minority-owned businesses and small business owners.
Stone did not return a request for comment.
In July, Stone gave the keynote during the Cannabis World Congress without incident. But Ean Seeb, who recently sold his marijuana company to Willie Nelson, says the controversy over Stone brought "a lot of hate to the surface" of the marijuana industry, explaining that some marijuana executives have brazenly posted racist and anti-Semitic views on Facebook.
Marijuana Business Association, New Frontier Data, Flow Kana, California Cannabis Advocates, Denver Relief Consulting, and others have joined the boycott.
Late on Monday Cannabis World Congress posted a statement to its Facebook page about how its mission is to be an "open forum" for the industry. The conference is sticking with Stone to help achieve its goal to be "inclusionary [sic]" and provide an "open and unbiased, educational and business platform for the diverse voices and opinions in this industry to be heard."
Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, spoke at the same conference with Stone in July and is still scheduled to speak at the conference in Los Angeles.