Marijuana industry groups have condemned longtime GOP political strategist Roger Stone’s involvement in the marijuana legalization effort, arguing his support for President Donald Trump will tarnish the movement.
In response to Trump’s tepid response to the violence in Charlottesville and Stone’s presidential advisory role, four speakers and one sponsor of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition announced they plan to boycott the event if Stone is not replaced as the key note speaker.
Stone, who played a significant role in orchestrating Trump’s 2016 victory, recently launched a bipartisan marijuana advocacy organization. Stone founded the United States Cannabis Coalition with wealthy Florida Democratic donor John Morgan to pressure the Trump administration to cede marijuana regulation to the states.
The Minority Cannabis Business Association was the first to speak out against Stone in a Facebook post admonishing the event’s organizers for choosing Stone as the keynote speaker
A number of minority entrepreneurs followed suit, launching a change.org petition calling for Stone’s replacement. Prominent industry stakeholders including New Frontier Data and the Marijuana Business Association cosigned the petition.
“Totally a Media Matters for America hit campaign … funded by George Soros,” Stone told Politico Florida in response to the boycott.
Influential industry media outlets have also come out against Stone’s inclusion in the expo, arguing the industry would tarnish its reputation by working with Stone.
“Maybe Roger Stone isn’t a racist, but you know what’s just as bad as being a racist? Using other people’s racism as a means to achieve your own political ends,” Weed News wrote. “There are plenty of well-intentioned conservatives that are coming around on our issue who don’t flirt with racism to make their point … I don’t care how connected Stone is to Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump, if our industry decides to buddy up to people who have blood on their hands, there is no way for us to come out clean.”
The expo’s organizer Dan Huniston defended the organization’s selection of Stone, prioritizing Stone’s political access and connections over potential criticisms related to his support for Trump or past political activity.
“Our objective as a show producer in the cannabis industry is we are trying to do whatever we can to help grant access to this plant for anybody that needs it. And to do that we feel that we have to be as inclusionary as we can possibly be. It is nothing more than that. I think there are some real benefits to the cannabis movement that will be gained by getting as many people under our tent as we can,” Huniston told the Cannabis Industry Journal. “Its funny how this plant brings people together who aren’t together under any other topic; it creates the strangest of bedfellows. The more dialogue and more opportunities to speak with people we can’t agree on any other topic with, the better. I think he is an asset to this movement. He has raised a lot of money. He is pushing Jeff Sessions really hard and he’s got Donald Trump’s ear.”
Morgan, a long time Florida medical marijuana advocate considering a Florida gubernatorial run in 2018, believes the boycott does not serve the interests of the movement.
“It’s a mistake. Roger has the president’s ear. Politics is not pretty. Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows. This is such a time,” Morgan told Politico. “With the stroke of a pen Trump could make MJ schedule 2. And it would be right and his ratings would soar.”
Stone remains the expo’s keynote speaker for now. The event will take place in Los Angeles September 13-15 and again in Boston form October 4-6.
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