A cannabis conference dropped Roger Stone, an early aide to President Trump, as a keynote speaker after two weeks of pressure from a boycott led by marijuana entrepreneurs. The boycott started Aug. 22 as a protest over Stone's keynote, citing his history of offensive remarks towards people of color and women.
According to a statement issued by Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo (CWCBE) on Wednesday, the organization cancelled Stone's keynote speeches at its events in Los Angeles and Boston in September and October in an effort to "minimize recent distractions" from the conference.
When the Roger Stone boycott first gained momentum in August, the CWCBE, in a statement, said it would not agree to the boycott's demands of nixing Stone, reiterating that Stone would still give a keynote at the conference's two events. (In July, Stone gave a keynote during CWCBE's New York conference.)
The boycott gained traction via social media as industry entrepreneurs and leaders spread word of the protest. Some entrepreneurs got into a heated debate with a conference employee, who referred to the boycott leaders as "dumb." The employee also claimed that CWCBE hosted the most racially diverse events in the "world" and said a rival conference put on "all-white" events.
CWCBE apologized for the employee's behavior on Facebook and said the conference does not "condone bigotry, racism, or hate-mongering of any kind." The conference also promised it would conducted an internal review and carry out "corrective actions." A spokesman for CWCBE would not say whether or not the employee was fired or disciplined.
The CWCBE changed its mind on Stone after holding talks with boycott organizers and other stakeholders, including Reverend Al Sharpton, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, a person at the meeting confirmed. Rev. Sharpton spoke at the July event in New York and is scheduled to speak in Los Angeles and Boston.
Jesce Horton, the founder of Portland, Oregon-based marijuana cultivator Panacea Valley Gardens and one of the organizers of the boycott, said he was also at the meeting with CWCBE leadership to talk about his concerns.
"To be fair, they were humble, they listened, and we had a good discussion," says Horton.
"It took a lot of people and it took the rest of the industry stepping up with us," says Horton. "Some of the largest organizations in the industry, some of the most influential people and companies all came together to stand up against Stone. It's important to have different views, but it will not be Stone's racist, sexist, anti-Semitic rhetoric."
Stone's 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.
In the same statement regarding Stone, CWCBE says its forums "are crucial to the growth and legalization of the cannabis industry" and 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."
Horton says the industry needs to be methodical when choosing people to represent the legal market. Stone is a longtime drug reformer, but the reform he helped pass in Florida received criticism as favoring wealthy business owners. Stone helped get Florida's medical marijuana bill passed this year, working with John Morgan, a Democrat and big Clinton donor who underwrote the marijuana law.