Tag: Roger Stone

Can an Inclusive Cannabis Industry Include Roger Stone?

It was high noon when I arrived at the Alchemy Lounge, a “members-only social club” with a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bud) policy when it comes to on-site vaping. The lounge is located directly across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center, which was convenient for me since I’d just come from the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBE)—a marijuana industry trade show with a LYBAH (Leave Your Bud at Home) policy that was really harshing my mellow.

I didn’t leave the convention center (just) to get blazed, however.

After a boycott got him dismissed from the Cannabis World Expo, Stone promised to speak anyway—at a vape lounge near the show.

I made my way over to the Alchemy to hear a speech by longtime political dirty trickster Roger Stone, who was originally booked to give that day’s keynote address at the CWCBE, but got dumped by Expo organizers after a #DisownStone movement sprung up on social media. CWCBE higher-ups at first pushed back against this online pressure campaign, then—facing bad press and a snowballing boycott from sponsors, speakers, exhibitors and attendees—they waved the white flag and put out a press release disinviting their main attraction, without ever saying why.

The closest they came to an explanation was a single sentence that mixed a smug humble brag with a bit of virtue-signaling and just a dash of snowflaking.

“The forums created by CWCBE are crucial to the growth and legalization of the cannabis industry and they supersede the distractions that have surrounded the event.”

Well, at least that prepared statement struck a more diplomatic tone than CWCBE managing partner Scott Giannotti, who earlier made the claim (without evidence) on Facebook that the expo has the most “politically and culturally diverse conference program in the cannabis industry,” before offering to show critics like the Minority Cannabis Business Association “how dumb you people are.”

Perhaps Giannotti was simply following the sage advice of Roger Stone, who includes among his Stone’s Rule’s for political combat the following:

Attack, attack, attack… never defend.

Never Apologize…for Getting the Date Wrong

And speaking of Roger Stone—where the hell was he?

After being dumped by the CWCBE organizers, Stone had alerted friends, foes, and of course the media that he’d give his keynote speech at the Alchemy Lounge instead.

It was well past noon when I overheard a huddle among the ostensible organizers of this renegade speaking engagement. He’s not coming. At least not today. Maybe tomorrow.

Turns out the initial official announcement of the speech got the day wrong. And I wasn’t the only one left hanging. About twenty people showed up, including Omar Navarro, a Republican Congressional candidate for California’s 43rd District, and a member of Roger Stone’s newly formed United States Cannabis Coalition. Navarro departed quickly after discovering the headliner’s a no-show. I stuck around to share a little cannabis with members of the gathering and work through the ethical conundrum that is Roger Stone.

My first foray did not go well. I sidled up on some young wannabe Roger Stone YouTubers and looked for a way to join their conversation. But they were here for the spectacle, uninterested in anything beyond the impending pie fight. They were like the most evil/banal comments section on the internet come to life. I listened as they spewed out a long list of offenses committed by their perceived enemies, immediately followed by a meta-lamentation about how easily offended everyone is these days.

Feeling discouraged and displaced, I found an empty couch in the back of the room where I could get high in peace and collect my thoughts about Roger Stone.

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‘Roger Stone Is a Dangerous Person’

Let’s start by giving the devil his due. An avowed libertarian, Stone has been an outspoken opponent of the Drug War and a cannabis legalization advocate for more than a decade. More to the point, he’s been a close advisor to our current President for going on 40 years, and now says preventing a federal crackdown on legal cannabis is his “first and foremost” goal in politics.

‘Stone is welcome to use his First Amendment rights to speak out for cannabis legalization, but he has an awful lot of amends to make before he should be invited to give a keynote address.’

Jesce Horton, Chairman, Minority Cannabis Business Association

To that end, his new organization is a bipartisan “pro-cannabis special project dedicated to influencing federal level decision makers so they honor State’s Rights and state mandated marijuana laws as well as reform our antiquated and failed federal drug laws.”

So is this a guy we really want to kick to the curb?

Absolutely, says Jesce Horton, founder of Portland, Oregon-based marijuana cultivator Panacea Valley Gardens, and chair of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, who sparked the boycott with a Facebook post.

“When you bring someone on as a keynote speaker, you’re giving that person a platform to speak not just for themselves, but as an acknowledged leader,” Horton explained when I contacted him by phone after the Expo.

“Roger Stone is a very dangerous person to lift up in that way because of his long history of racist and misogynistic rhetoric; his role in advising and helping to elect some of the nation’s biggest drug warriors; and his involvement in Florida in helping usher in one of the most restrictive cannabis laws in the nation—one that effectively locks out small business. So I welcome Roger Stone to use his First Amendment rights to speak out for cannabis legalization, but I think he has an awful lot of work to do and amends to make before he should be invited to give a keynote address to the industry.”

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Chaos Is His Business

Controversy, of course, is nothing new to Stone.

While only a teenager, he testified before the Watergate grand jury about his work for the infamous “ratfuckers” on Richard Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President. Later today (September 26), he’ll voluntarily testify before the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In between those landmark investigations, he’s made a highly lucrative career out of advising hardline Republican candidates and peddling influence on behalf of a rogue’s gallery of dictators and despots. His Washington, DC, consulting firm was dubbed “The Torturer’s lobby” on Capitol Hill.

And in 2017, Business Is Good

Another of Stone’s Rules: Nothing is on the level.

Stone supports gay marriage, abortion rights and Juggalos. He lifts serious weights, dresses like a dandy, and advises saving your carbs for booze.

For kicks, he hangs out with InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and speculates about whether President Trump is being poisoned and mind-controlled via spiked Diet Cokes.

He’s gotten himself banned from CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News for his “incendiary comments,” which include everything from accusing the Bush family of trying to kill Ronald Reagan to hurling nuclear-grade racist and sexist invective at his political rivals.

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Are Stone and Sharpton Equivalent?

Patrick H. Moore helped organize Stone’s appearance at the Alchemy Lounge. (He would introduce Stone from stage the following day, when he actually did show up.) Moore listened to me recount Stone’s many transgressions, then responded: “And how is that any different from Al Sharpton, a man who built his career on racially charged comments?”

‘How is Stone different than Al Sharpton, who built his career on racially-charged comments?’

Patrick Moore, event organizer

Moore looks like a wild-eyed old-school hippie pot activist, and in keeping with that persona passes me a vape pen while I took in his rap.

For starters, the question isn’t out of left field. While Moore and I talked, in fact, Al Sharpton was giving the keynote CWBCE speech back at the convention center. And Sharpton has certainly used words like “homo” and “cracker” in the past. During the 1991 Crown Heights riots he told a crowd “if the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”

And—oh yeah—in 2004, Al Sharpton enlisted none other than Roger Stone as a key advisor in his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Remember, nothing is on the level.

“That kind of hypocrisy shows the boycott’s not really about Roger Stone,” Moore says. “I believe it’s a mix of business interests aligned with key elements of the left community that’s vying to control and dominate this new blossoming multibillion dollar industry.”

Moore pulses with an energy shared by those who believe they possess secret knowledge. He tells me his cannabis activism goes back to the 1996 campaign to pass Proposition 215, which made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana.

But last November, Moore opposed California’s Prop 64, which legalized recreational cannabis. He felt the measure was too restrictive, and would lead to a corporate takeover of the industry.

“Prop 215 changed the whole world’s conversation about cannabis as a medicine,” he says. “Real” legalization could have done the same for the industry, according to Moore, by creating a new economic model that empowers people rather than enriching big business. Except that the major activist organizations and a good chunk of the industry are all part of a “globalist agenda” orchestrated by billionaire George Soros.

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Who You Calling a Globalist?

Whoah—now that’s a red flag. The word “globalist” has often been used as an anti-semitic dog whistle by those who want to covertly express anti-Jewish sentiments. George Soros is a favorite boogeyman for all manner of racists and white nationals. And “globalist agenda” conjures right-wing conspiracy theories about who “really runs the world.”

Moore just thinks the whole system is a sham—especially the corporate media.

But nothing Moore said to me over two hours of pointed conversation struck me as remotely racist or hateful. Ditto for a long scroll of his Twitter feed. He just thinks the whole system is a sham—especially the corporate media. So he gets some portion of his news from the kind of “alternative sources” and “conspiracy sites” that knowingly or not use this kind of coded language.

Anyway, what’s the War on Marijuana if not a giant conspiracy—backed by big lies and enforced by the government—to violently suppress an incredibly beneficial plant? All to protect pharmaceutical profits, fill for-profit prisons, control marginalized communities and keep Big Oil from facing the threat of industrial hemp.

So no, based on a single encounter and some cursory research, I don’t believe that Patrick’s paranoid or a Jew-hater. Also, please note: While I would have continued to interview him if he was a racist, I definitely would have stopped puffing weed with him.

Now, those Stone-wannabe YouTubers—they were hateful little shits.

The Man Delivers

Here’s the thing, the real crux of the matter:

Whatever Roger Stone’s personal beliefs, he’s very clearly made a career out of delivering the “hateful little shit” vote to guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan—who both loved nothing more than busting hippies and minorities for weed. In fact, Stone’s done his job so well that the hateful little shits of the world now feel like they own the place.

Keep in mind, there’s long been a conservative wing of the marijuana legalization movement (Limited Government! Free Enterprise! Personal Liberty!), identified with principled voices like William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman on up to Gary Johnson and Grover Norquist. There are currently bipartisan cannabis bills in Congress, sponsored by a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. So this rift at the expo isn’t about electoral politics or ideology. And it isn’t even really about Roger Stone—as much as he loves the attention.

The rift at the expo wasn’t about electoral politics or ideology. And it wasn’t even really about Roger Stone—as much as he loves the attention.

“Roger Stone would have had an audience at the Expo, but it wouldn’t have been that big,” Beth, a friend of Patrick’s and fellow cannabis activist, tells me. “People at a business expo aren’t there to see keynote speakers, especially ones that aren’t even in the cannabis business.”

Beth declined to give a last name, but did join our vaping circle. She met Patrick years ago at a local Occupy organizing event, and despite “disagreeing on almost everything else,” they became allies in pushing for “real” cannabis legalization and against corporate control of the industry. She called Roger Stone an “absolutely inappropriate pick” for keynote speaker, and doesn’t disagree with the boycott. She just feels it misses the point.

“The whole conference is misleading,” Beth said, calling out a large number of CWCBE exhibitors as crass opportunists come to cash in, with no ideals or agenda beyond their own enrichment. That’s the real danger, she says, not some speech.

“Do I agree with the politicians Roger Stone has worked for?” Beth asks, rhetorically. “Oh, hell no. But I see that he’s tenacious, and wants his cannabis coalition to encompass multiple viewpoints, including the kind of real legalization we’ve been trying to promote. In coalition building for a political cause you’ve sometimes got to put other issues aside.”

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‘We Need To Build Bridges’

Emmett Reistroffer likewise believes there’s a need to find common ground and be inclusive of diverse viewpoints.

A policy consultant from Denver, in 2012 he was lead coordinator of the petition drive and ballot qualification process for Amendment 64, Colorado’s historic recreational cannabis law. More recently he was one of the authors of I-300, a “social use” initiative that passed in Denver last November. He doesn’t support the boycott. But he did join me in taking advantage of the Alchemy Lounge’s “bring your own buds” policy.

I looked at Roger Stone’s record, and there wasn’t enough for me to say ‘Absolutely not, this guy can’t affiliate with us.’

Emmett Reistroffer , Policy consultant on Colorado’s Amendment 64 campaign

“Right now a lot of the activist community fears that things are going in the direction of crony capitalism and a corporate take-over. And that understandable frustration is going to keep popping up in different ways,” he says. “But I think we also need to build as many bridges as possible, and a boycott is a middle finger. That’s a hardline tactic that I think we should only resort to under extreme circumstances.”

Reistroffer labels himself a libertarian and says he agrees with many of Roger Stone’s policy positions, though he won’t defend his tactics. He counts close friends and colleagues among the boycott’s strongest supporters, and “totally respects their decision.”

“I looked at Roger Stone’s record, and there wasn’t enough for me to say ‘Absolutely not, this guy can’t affiliate with us.’ A lot of that frankly comes down to political strategy. Because no matter how much you might dislike President Trump, he’s the gatekeeper right now who has the ability to either set this industry back ten years, or move it forward ten years. And we don’t exactly have a lot of friends within the current administration.”

Reistroffer’s roommate, Andrew Mieure—proprietor of Denver’s Top Shelf Budtending—tagged along to the Alchemy Lounge out of “morbid curiosity.” Andrew and Emmet “argue about everything” (just like Patrick and Beth) while also managing not to be racist assholes or self-righteous pricks about it. They watched the Netflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone together. Mieure admits he mostly came to see if the man of the hour “lived up to the character portrayed in the movie.”

‘Politics Isn’t Theater. It’s Performance Art.’

And therein lies Roger Stone’s true political genius. Through long practice, he’s perfected a signature blend of hyper-partisan politics, spectacle-grade entertainment and absolute gutter fighting that’s really hard to ignore. His persona comes across like an evil wisecracking Pro Wrestling manager in a fancy suit who’s forever throwing sand in your eyes and smiling.

Is Stone really here to make sure the little guy comes out on top—just this once?

Which brings to mind another Stone Rule:

Politics isn’t theater. It’s performance art. Sometimes, for its own sake.

Case in point: I just wrote 2,500 words on a guy who didn’t show up. And this story’s not even about him—not really. It’s about a political grassroots revolution that grew up from the margins of society and changed the world despite massive government oppression and tens of millions of arrests, only to watch fat cats and carpetbaggers swoop in and lay claim to the spoils of war, or the peace dividend, depending on how you look at it.

So is Roger Stone the guy to fix things?

Is he really here to make sure the little guy comes out on top—just this once?

Unclear.

But I will direct you to one last Stone’s Rule.

Unless you can fake sincerity, you’ll get nowhere in this business. 

Trump Comments Spark Boycott of LA Cannabis Expo

A boycott of the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo, slated for Los Angeles in mid-Sept., started with a Facebook post on Thursday morning. By Friday afternoon it had spread to a number of prominent members of the cannabis industry.

The boycott is the latest fallout from President Trump’s comments defending white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

On Thursday, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) put up a Facebook post announcing its withdrawal from the expo due to the presence of Roger Stone, who is booked as a keynote speaker. Stone, a self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, is a longtime mentor and advisor to President Trump, and has a long history of ugly racial incidents in his past. He’s also a vocal advocate of cannabis legalization.

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The MCBA posted this on Thursday: “As a result of CWC choosing this guy as their keynote speaker, MCBA has decided to withdraw from attendance and speaking roles at this conference. CWC, you know better so there’s no excuse not to do better.”

Later that day, the Cannabis Industry Journal announced that it would “no longer be a media partner of any CWCBExpo events, unless they remove Roger Stone from the keynote slot.”

The Journal editors added:

“In choosing Roger Stone to keynote, the CWCBExpo is making a Faustian bargain and we don’t believe this is right. We need to stand by our morals; the ends don’t justify the means. The cannabis industry is no place for racism and we would like to see Roger Stone removed from the keynote position at CWCBExpo.”

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Scott Giannotti, a managing partner of the CWCBExpo, replied in a post addressed to Minority Cannabis Business Association leader Jesce Horton: “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.”

That did not go over well. Wanda James, one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, responded: “this is going big.”

Other leaders voicing their support for the MCBA’s position and withdrawing from the conference included Aunt Zelda’s co-founder Mara Gordon, as well as former Drug Policy Alliance California policy manager Amanda Reiman, who’s now vice president for community relations at Flow Kana.

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Stone’s presence has long made many cannabis activists uneasy. But he’s also been seen by some as a symbol of the common ground that conservatives and liberals can find on the issue of legalization. That uneasy alliance was shaken by Trump’s words and actions in the past week. For many, inviting a close Trump advisor like Stone to a cannabis event jumped a lane over the past seven days. What was once seen as a good-faith instance of reaching across the political aisle became a show of tacit support for Trump’s toxic views on race and violence.

Kaliko Castille summed up the feeling of many in the MCBA camp in Weed News earlier today:

“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. There are plenty of well-intentioned conservatives that are coming around on our issue who don’t flirt with racism to make their point. If you want a principled conservative with political connections to speak at your events, invite Grover Norquist.

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.”

Opposites Attract: Roger Stone, John Morgan Team Up in Cannabis Coalition

Two months ago Roger Stone, the longtime political advisor to President Trump, revealed that he was forming a new bipartisan coalition to defend state marijuana legalization laws. Earlier this week Stone, along with prominent Florida attorney John Morgan, offered more complete details about the makeup of that group, the United States Cannabis Coalition.

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The USCC was created by the two men basically on the complete opposite side of politics from one another, to persuade federal decision makers—including the president—to support each states’ right to create its own cannabis laws.

Courtesy of the United States Cannabis Coalition.

Both Morgan and Stone have been longtime advocates for cannabis legalization. Morgan, who founded one of the country’s largest personal injury law firms, was largely responsible for bringing medical marijuana to Florida. Stone has been advocating for legalization throughout his political career.

The main goal of the group, according to its press release, is to urge President Trump to honor the pledge that he made several times during the 2016 campaign, that he would support each states’ authority to legalize the possession and sales of cannabis.

“I am highly confident that Donald Trump will protect the access of millions of Americans including our veterans who are currently using cannabis for medicinal purposes” said Stone, who has been a formal and informal advisor to Trump for more than 40 years. “I am confident the President will keep his pledge.”

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According to the group, the coalition will also urge the President to change the classification of cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug.

“All Americans can and should come together to stop the war on marijuana. It can no longer be a Schedule 1 narcotic. Pain, disease, and mental illness don’t pick political parties – just people. This is the perfect issue for ‘strange bedfellows’ to come together on and WIN,” said Morgan.

There are people from all political parties in the coalition: Democrats and Republicans, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and progressives.

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Derrick Kitts, the former producer of NBC’s Morning Joe news show will serve as the Senior Consultant to the coalition, while the Executive Director will be Ryan Criscuolol of Denver.

In the coalition’s press release, Stone noted that Sessions had written Congress requesting authority to wage a crackdown on medicinal cannabis, while others in the White House have murmured that a crackdown could be coming.

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“Attorney General Eric Holder’s directive on the subject chose to respect states’ rights.  Unbelievably, now Sessions and Kelly, egged on by the likes of Governor Chris Christie and the new FBI Director, want to void the Holder directive, revive the war on drugs, and prosecute those who are making legal medicinal marijuana available even though their boss has indicated that he doesn’t share their draconian views on the subject,” Morgan said in a statement.

The following members will also be joining Stone and Morgan on the USCC advisory board:

  • Fox News Legal Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano
  • WBAI radio commentator and Democratic US Senate candidate Randy Credico
  • Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)
  • Omar Navarro, Republican Candidate for Congress 43rd District – CA
  • Norm Kent, Chairman of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
  • Congressman Matt Gaetz R- FL
  • NY State Senator Diane Savino (D-Bronx)
  • Christian Josi, Former Executive Director of the American Conservative Union
  • Assemblyman Ron Castorina, Chairman of the Staten Island Republican Committee
  • Jeff Doctor, Director of the National Indian Cannabis Coalition
  • Jim Gray, former California Superior Court Judge and 2012 Libertarian Party candidate for Vice President
  • Elizabeth Everett, of Texans for Trump
  • Deroy Murdock, a longtime columnist and activist
  • Pastor Mark Burns, of Easley, SC
  • CATO Institute Scholar Doug Bandow
  • Missouri State Rep. Shamed Dogan
  • Curtis Sliwa, Guardian Angels Founder and Chairman of The New York State Reform Party
  • Gary Wiegert of the St. Louis Police Department
  • Arizona State Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson)

Kevin Sabet Takes on Roger Stone at Politicon

In only its third year, Politicon has grown into a national “unconventional political convention,” pitting neoliberals, libertarians, Berniecrats and the alt-right head to head in panels designed to provoke, inflame and hopefully enlighten the American voter.

‘If there’s any place where we can all build coalitions and get the fuck along for a while, let it be weed!’

Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing editor

This year’s show, held at the Pasadena Convention Center, focused on the Trump phenomenon, and many of the biggest events pitted supporters and detractors against each other (Chelsea Handler vs Tomi Lahren, Ben Shapiro vs. Cenk Uyghur). Cannabis landed on the schedule with the Weed Wars panel, hosted by VICELAND’s Krishna Andavolu and featuring Trump political advisor Roger Stone, Project SAM’s Kevin Sabet, “Daily Show” correspondent Roy Wood Jr., Civilized founder Derek Riedle, Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin, and the ACLU’s Kellen Russoniello.

Politicon 2017 lineup (L-R): Roger Stone, Xeni Jardin, Kevin Sabet, Roy Wood Jr. (Getty photo courtesy of Politicon)

Considering the overall chaos of the political moment, most of the panel rejoiced in the bipartisan consensus amongst audience and panel alike on cannabis legalization. As Xeni Jardin put it, “If there’s any place where we can all build coalitions and get the fuck along for a while, let it be weed!”

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Social Justice and Selling Out

Krishna kicked things off with a sort of theme for the panel—“the battle for the soul of weed”—as cannabis transitions from an activist subculture into an emergent industry.

The legalization advocates and the panel’s lone prohibitionist, Kevin Sabet, all claimed the social justice mantle. Sabet evoked nightmare scenarios of a well-moneyed Big Cannabis lobby attempting to seed poor communities of color with stores and cultivation centers, while people of color continue to suffer disproportionate possession arrests in legal markets.

The ACLU’s Kellen Russoniello countered this by noting the social equity components of California’s Proposition 64, as well as the city of Oakland’s mandate to award 50% of licenses to people and neighborhoods negatively affected by the war on drugs. But he acknowledged that the criminal justice advancements in legalization will be incremental rather than sweeping. “This is a fundamental shift in the way the US deals with drugs and race, primarily race,” Russoniello said. “We have yet to figure out what to do with race since before we were a country. This is an important step forward in acknowledging and repairing that bias.”

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MMJ vs. Rec

The second tug-of-war took place around medical vs. adult use. Xeni Jardin, a medical cannabis patient, started off the panel with her conversion from an opponent of the “Botox and buds”-style pot shops to a grateful cancer survivor who credits weed with helping to save her life and reduce her opioid use. “Pot was the least worst drug I put in my body,” she said.

Roger Stone also revealed that he purchased cannabis for his dying father during his battle with cancer. Sabet chose not to dispute their testimonies, but told Xeni that he wouldn’t have minded if Xeni had used meth or heroin for her treatment. Xeni continually rebuked him for this as well as other false equivalencies he made throughout the panel discussion: “You can’t OD on pot. Apples are not oranges, and tobacco is not marijuana.”

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While Sabet threw the most elbows, Stone clearly commanded the strongest presence as both the man with the President’s ear and Krishna’s designated “unlikeliest dude to be down with ganja.” Even Sabet refrained from challenging him on his proposed “Tricky Dick” brand cannabis line. Stone confidently predicted that “Candidate Trump’s” states-rights position on legalization would prevail administration drug warriors like Jeff Sessions.

‘I am convinced that the President will do the right thing. Wait and see.’

Roger Stone, Trump adviser

Clearly, Stone is a busy man on this issue: He revealed that he would be serving as a witness in the recent federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, which claims that the Schedule I status of cannabis is unconstitutional. He’s also teaming up with Florida criminal justice attorney John Morgan to petition Trump himself to honor his pledge and de-schedule cannabis once and for all.

Stone’s prediction didn’t win many converts. Most of his fellow panelists were skeptical that Trump’s chaotic administrative style could bring together a disciplined and coherent position on anything, much less cannabis. Stone disagreed, pointing to a Cannabis Caucus-infused House that can easily shoulder cannabis law reform between liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans. This calculus, he admitted, does not exist in the Senate, but he still feels “the votes can be found.” And as far as Trump goes, “I am convinced that the President will do the right thing. Wait and see.”

Not a Defining Issue

To be fair, Sabet reminded the audience that cannabis still occupies a low-priority status among most voters. Even citizens who vote in favor of legalization often fall prey to nervous NIMBYism when it comes time to implement in their own town.

Stone disagreed. “The train has left the station,” he said. The main question now, he added, is what the emerging industry should look like and who’s going to run it. Civilized founder Derek Riedle felt that ultimately cannabis will become “an economic and a global issue,” with Canada and Israel positioned to take the lead in the short run.

But at least, in case you were wondering, there was some fun to be had. Stone revealed that he joined the Libertarian Party in 2012 because he thought Republican nominee Mitt Romney was a turd, and claimed he fired Ohio Gov. John Kasich back in 1976 for selling weed. When Sabet cited a statistic claiming that most people who try cannabis don’t like it, Riedle shot back: “They’re doing it wrong.” And Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr. closed the panel with a request: “I wanna come back to Politicon next year and talk about… shrooms.”

The Haymaker: Solving the Roger Stone Dilemma

Editor’s note: ‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s weekly column on cannabis politics and culture.

What do you do when the devil adopts your cause?

Okay, Roger Stone is not literally Satan. But still…

That dilemma confronted me recently when the Roger Stone, the notorious political trickster and longtime Trump advisor, formed a cannabis legalization advocacy group called the US Cannabis Coalition (USCC).

OK, Roger Stone is not literally Satan. He’s more like the Jason Sudeikis devil on “Weekend Update,” all red plastic horns and cape. He’ll smile and charm you and chuckle ruefully. Oh yeah! Good times. I’m a naughty stinker, I am.

"I'm the Devil but I'm not a monster!" “I’m the Devil but I’m not a monster!”

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Roger Stone carries out dirty political ops that sit two bus transfers away from the nearest ethical boundary. I’m not saying that. Roger Stone is saying that.

This is a man who boasts of turning his first political dirty trick in elementary school in 1960. An ardent John F. Kennedy supporter, he “remember[s] going through the cafeteria line and telling every kid that Nixon was in favor of school on Saturdays.” After converting to conservatism, he became Nixon’s go-to political ratfucker, sabotaging would-be rivals by, as he put it, “trafficking in the black arts.”

Nixon’s paranoid, score-settling style so entranced him that Stone had Nixon’s crooked visage inked on his back. You may think I’m speaking metaphorically. I am not.

That's not henna, my friends.That’s not henna, my friend.

Stone has been one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors since the late 1970s, when the two were brought together, fittingly, by the political fixer Roy Cohn. About whom, see under: Angels in America, McCarthyism, and Dark Arts (Past Practitioners Of). When WikiLeaks posted the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager last year, Stone boast-tweeted his “backchannel” connections to Julian Assange. Wink, nudge.

In the recently released documentary Get Me Roger Stone, the eponymous subject embraces his villainy: “It’s better to be infamous,” he says, “than never to be famous at all.”

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Legalization supporters hail from all points on the political spectrum. Two of the movement’s greatest champions are Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (hard-right Orange County conservative) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (hard-left Portlandia character).

The problem with Roger Stone isn’t the team he plays for. It’s the dirty way he plays. So imagine my surprise when I found him cheering in the bleachers alongside me last week, wearing the jersey and cap of my beloved squad, all but high-fiving me after a home run.

“We have the ability legally to lobby, but [USCC is] really grassroots mobilization to remind the president to keep his pledge” to uphold states rights when it comes to cannabis, Stone told Leafly contributor Ed Muerrieta last week.

What to do? Reject his support, or embrace it?

I did some research and some thinking.

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Let’s Make a Deal

Over the past 20 years American politics has seemingly turned into an all-or-nothing game. The point nowadays seems to be the complete and utter destruction of the opposition. No position is too extreme. Negotiation itself seems impossible in a time when compromise has become synonymous with betrayal—and electoral defeat.

One model: the conservative Koch brothers working with liberals on sentencing reform.

But there are moments when the old notion of politics as the art of the possible still holds. It most often happens at the local level but it also exists here and there in the national game too.

Case in point: The billionaire Koch brothers, widely loathed in liberal America, have made common cause in recent years with the sentencing reform movement. Most of those working to end America’s over-incarceration crisis come from the left side of the spectrum, but they’ve found a way to work with right-siders like David and Charles Koch (who describe themselves as libertarians), and other “smart on crime” conservatives in order to advance a common agenda. Likewise, the Kochs and other conservatives have averted their eyes to the many odious policies beloved by liberal reformers in order to get the job done.

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Call it the Dirksen Rule

That “strange bedfellows” dynamic has a proud history in American politics. To pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Johnson had to overcome the opposition of Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans.

‘You drink with Dirksen! You talk with Dirksen! You listen to Dirksen!’

President Lyndon Johnson, giving orders to Sen. Hubert Humphrey

The President instructed his chief Democratic ally, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, to pal up with Everett Dirksen, the Senate Republican Leader.

Dirksen, a rumpled and blustery conservative, may well have been the devil in the eyes of Humphrey, the very model of a reserved Minnesota liberal. As the legal historian Michael O’Donnell recounted in The Atlantic a few years ago, President Johnson gave Humphrey clear marching orders:

“You’ve got to spend time with Ev Dirksen. You’ve got to let him have a piece of the action. He’s got to look good all the time. Don’t let those [liberal] bomb throwers, now, talk you out of seeing Dirksen. You get in there to see Dirksen. You drink with Dirksen! You talk with Dirksen! You listen to Dirksen!”

Johnson cut deals to get votes from good ol’ boys in Texas. He strong-armed some senators and sweet-talked others. O’Donnell wrote that Johnson “engaged an army of lieutenants—businessmen, civil-rights leaders, labor officials, journalists, and allies on the Hill—to go out and find votes.” He told one labor leader to “talk to every human being you [can].”

That army of lieutenants wasn’t rostered with angels. A lot of them disagreed with Johnson’s positions. Many distrusted the man. Some of them probably hated his guts. But they agreed on one thing—passing the Civil Rights Act—and that’s all that mattered.

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Stone is Human; Let’s Talk

I don’t know much about Roger Stone’s new group. It may be just an astroturf lobbying front. But I do know he’s signed up a group of advisors that includes Florida attorney and medical marijuana activist John Morgan (a potential Democratic candidate for governor), the conservative Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, and Tyler Nixon, a Denver marijuana lawyer and great nephew of—yes, Richard Nixon.

Those are folks who, like Roger Stone, have some juice in national media and politics. I probably disagree with 90% of their political opinions. But I’m going to work together with them—and with Stone—on this issue. Because Lyndon Johnson was right. You talk to every human being you can.

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Leafly Interview: Dirty Trickster Roger Stone Talks Cannabis Legalization & Trump

Roger Stone, the notorious GOP political operative and longtime Donald Trump advisor, typically makes headlines for shadowy operations and unhinged outbursts. He’s been booted from Twitter for threatening journalists, once tweeting “DIE BITCH” at New York Times editor Jill Abramson. Racist, misogynist comments got him banned from CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News. Currently, he’s a figure of interest in the many investigations into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections. But this week he’s in the news for an unexpected and strangely welcome move: Stone has formed an organization to pressure President Trump to honor his states’ rights pledge regarding cannabis legalization.

Jeff Sessions is ‘a Southern conservative hard-core right-wing drug warrior’ who has ‘probably seen the movie Reefer Madness a hundred times.’

Roger Stone, political operative

Stone filed paperwork earlier this week with the Internal Revenue Service to create the United States Cannabis Coalition, a nonprofit political organization with the same tax-exempt status as super-PACs that influence politicians and elections.

Stone is scheduled to detail the USCC’s plans in a keynote speech today at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition in New York.

He spoke with Leafly on Thursday about his legalization advocacy and his new group.

“We have the ability legally to lobby, but [USCC is] really grassroots mobilization to remind the president to keep his pledge,” Stone told Leafly in a telephone interview from New York. “It’s a question of reaching people through every medium, whether it’s the Internet, cable TV, broadcast television, radio, blast emails or social media.”

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For Trump, but Against Sessions

Stone said he’s troubled by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent request to Congress to grant him authority to prosecute medical cannabis patients in states in which the botanical drugs is legal — in direct opposition to a 2013 memo from President Barack Obama’s Attorney General upholding states’ rights. Stone called Sessions’ request “devastating.”

“The one good thing the Obama-Holder regime did was making a decision to stay the federal law regarding possession and distribution in the 29 states where the people have legalized marijuana,” Stone said. “Now Sessions threatens to reverse that.”

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Stone called Sessions “a Southern conservative hard-core right-wing drug warrior who has probably never smelled marijuana in his life and has probably seen the movie ‘Reefer Madness’ a hundred times.”

“He appears to be reflecting his own views rather than the views of the president,” Stone said. “I wish he would crack down on Barack Obama’s illegal surveillance of Americans through the NSA and stop worrying about re-criminalizing marijuana.”

Stand Down on the ‘Crackdown’ Talk

Joining Stone on the United State Cannabis Coalition advisory board are Tyler Nixon, a Denver cannabis attorney who is a great nephew of Richard Nixon; former Minnesota governor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura; Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, a former judge; and attorney John Morgan, an attorney who spearheaded medicinal cannabis legalization in Florida.

Jesse Ventura: On Stone's advisory board.Jesse Ventura: On Stone’s advisory board.

Stone said he hopes to convince Trump to tell Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to stand down from “talking wistfully about a coming marijuana crackdown.”

“It’s important that the president realize that not only would that deny medical relief to millions of people but it would also deny states and counties hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenue, revenue they’re already budgeting and counting on,” Stone said. “The state of Colorado has a surplus today because of their legalized cannabis industry. Take that away and they’re on the brink of bankruptcy, as are many states.”

Stone noted Trump could single-handedly remove cannabis from Schedule 1, a status, on par with heroin, that classifies cannabis as having no known medical value despite state laws to the contrary.

“Trump can do it at a stroke of the pen or direct the Secretary of Health to do it,” Stone said. “One man can make this decision.”

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A Positive Move Would be Politically Popular

For a president with record-low approval ratings and looming impeachment threats, re-scheduling cannabis would be a boon for Trump and for America, Stone said.

Trump could remove cannabis from Schedule I ‘at the stroke of a pen.’ It would be ‘good policy, and good politics.’

Stone

“I think it would not only be good public policy,” Stone said, “I think it would be good politics.”

Stone called America’s 45-year-old War on Drugs “an expensive, ignominious, racist failure.”

“I think it would be fair to say drug use is a public-health issue rather than a criminal issue,” said Stone, whose political mentor, Richard Nixon, launched the War on Drugs during his first term in office. “I’m not talking about drug kingpins who sell heroin to children. I’m talking about the non-violent act of small amounts of drugs for personal use should not send a person to prison for 15 years.”

Stone, who remained close to Nixon after the disgraced president resigned from office midway into his second term, said his former mentor eventually admitted the War on Drugs was wrong.

“Only long after his presidency did he acknowledge that the War on Drugs had probably been a mistake,” Stone said. “But he only acknowledge that when I showed him the statistics.”

Stone said his coalition will also call for the U.S. to ease banking restrictions and to fund cannabis research.

“These kind of studies have been done in Israel with adequate funding and they’re really quite promising,” Stone said. “But we should have our own research.”

Legalization Finds Friends in Cowboys Owner, Trump Adviser

The cannabis legalization movement gained two unlikely allies over the weekend: Republican political consultant Roger Stone and Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones.

Stone, a lobbyist, political consultant, and Breitbart contributor who helped mastermind President Donald Trump’s courtship of the right, posted a scathing report on his website Stone Cold Truth making a case for why Trump and his administration should leave cannabis legislation up to the states.

“I urge President Trump to honor his word and keep his promise,” he wrote, noting Trump’s past statements in support of medical cannabis and irrespective of what his Cabinet members may say.

Jones, meanwhile—who last season called it “not a good look,” for rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot to pay a curious visit to a cannabis shop in Seattle—said at last week’s annual NFL owners’ meeting that it’s time for the league reconsider its ban on cannabis.

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‘Liberty Minded Americans’

In his post, Stone argues that tens of millions of “liberty minded Americans” believed Trump’s commitment to medical cannabis and states’ rights given statements he made before taking office.

“For medicinal purposes, for medical purposes,” Trump said in November 2015, “absolutely, it’s fine.”

“While Jeff Sessions is an excellent jurist and an astute politician, he unfortunately is also an adherent to outmoded thinking on marijuana.”

Roger Stone, former Trump aide

A month earlier, Trump had told the Washington Post: “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.”

Following Trump’s election, cannabis legalization advocates clung to those comments as an indication the new administration would leave state cannabis markets alone.

Then came Trump’s nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who famously said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” (A statement Stone calls “plainly false.)

Stone describes Sessions as “far from the mainstream” on cannabis:

While Jeff Sessions is an excellent jurist and an astute politician, he unfortunately is also an adherent to outmoded thinking on marijuana. As a product of the Religious South, it is natural that AG Sessions would take the dimmest view of marijuana, but there is little room left for debate as to the origin of the marijuana prohibition laws and how they were formulated as a tool to bludgeon both the poor and minorities, the largest consumers of the formerly legal plant.

He notes that the plant’s “medicinal value is proven yet strangely still denied by the Federal Government” and even quotes the Bible and Thomas Jefferson in defense of federal reform.

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In the end, Stone urges Trump “to honor his word and keep his promise, irrespective of what his Cabinet members may say. There are so many other ways that law enforcement can be put to good use rather than to persecute harmless farmers and shopkeepers who are abiding by State law.”

NFL’s Jerry Jones Flip-Flops

Just months after criticizing star rookie Ezekiel Elliot for checking out a state-legal cannabis store before a preseason game in Seattle, the NFL’s most notoriously outspoken team owner reportedly wants the league to relax its rules on cannabis.

According to Mike Florio, of Pro Football Talk, Jones, speaking to fellow owners, said he wants the league to drop its prohibition on cannabis use.

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The Cowboys owner, Florio reports, was, “reminded that the issue falls under the umbrella of collective bargaining, which would require the players to make one or more concessions in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition. “

Cannabis, under the current bargaining agreement, is a banned substance under the league’s substance abuse policy. Any change to that rule would have to be incorporated into the next collective bargaining agreement—or the NFL Players Union would have to make concessions, as Jones was reportedly told.

As a sports fanatic who’s spent time in athletic PR, I’m still not sure how to read the news from Jones. After all, three key players—Rolando McClain, Demarcus Lawrence, and Randy Gregory—all faced suspensions last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Gregory has been dogged by failed cannabis tests dating back to his college days at the University of Nebraska.

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Is Jones’ change of heart sincere? Does he truly recognize the potential of cannabis in a league that passes out painkillers like candy? Or is it simply a change he thinks would help him field the best team? For now, that remains to be seen.

But if the owners and players want to explore the option, now’s the time to begin. As SB Nation reports, the current collective bargaining agreement was established in August 2011 and is set to expire in 2020.