In August, a cannabis controversy erupted over Roger Stone's planned speech at the CWCBExpo scheduled for Sept. 13-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. On Sept. 6, the event announced that Stone had been removed from the speaker's lineup.
In a press release, the CWCBExpo stated:
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.
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. CWCBExpo 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.
Speakers and sponsors began withdrawing support from the event when word leaked out that Stone would be delivering a keynote in LA, as he did at the New York CWCBExpo (for Cannabis World Conference & Business Expo) on June 15. There was no controversy in New York.
Industry veteran Amanda Reiman started the boycott when she pulled out as a speaker on Aug. 17. Several others followed her lead. The main complaint about Stone is that he's a Donald Trump confidant who's employed dirty tricks in campaigns dating back to Nixon and Reagan. A flamboyant character who's featured in the documentary, Get Me Roger Stone (it's available on Netflix), he's been known to use insulting terms for women and people of color. The reason Stone has been booked to appear at these events (he was also scheduled to speak at the CWCBExpo in Boston in October) is his support for marijuana legalization. Some think he could favorably influence Trump's drug policies.
Scott Giannotti, CWCBExpo's managing partner, added fuel to the fire, after the Minority Cannabis Business Association pulled out of the event, with this outrageous post:
How convenient MCBA is promoting CWCBExpo's biggest competitor NCIA, who hosts ALL WHITE CONFERENCES. Meanwhile, CWCBExpo works hard at producing the most politically and culturally diverse conference program in the cannabis industry. But we're racists ok lol I'll put our show guide up against NCIA's any day you want and show you how dumb you people are. In fact I'll put the diversity of our conference against ANY trade show in the WORLD and make you look rediculous (sic). Good luck on your crusade and promoting the MOST WHITE trade association in the cannabis industry. Have a nice day.
MCBA chair Jesce Horton replied to Giannotti's brazen taunt:
Thanks for your opinion, Scott. Don't appreciate you calling us "dumb" and addressing us as "you people" but I'm sure you're just emotional. This isn't about NCIA conference vs yours. It also isn't about how many black and brown faces you can put on stage to sell tickets. If NCIA ever chose to prop up someone with the racist history of Roger Stone as a keynote speaker, we would not attend or speak there either.
National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) executive director Aaron Smith tells CelebStoner:
"I don't really see the need to reply on [Giannotti's] social media post when I can simply allow him to continue to dig his own hole with boldfaced lies about NCIA. Anyone with access to the Internet can see we don't host 'all white' conferences. Rather than feeding the trolls of social media, I prefer to keep focused on the work of reforming our nation's cannabis laws, which is what NCIA is really about."
Al Sharpton was also a keynote speaker at the June event and is scheduled to speak in LA and Boston. Stone once tweeted that Sharpton was a "professional Negro." It's rumored that he had a hand in Stone's removal from the events.