I have spent the last day and a half in Las Vegas with my buddy Kaliko and Jay Smoker. There are several marijuana industry events taking place in Las Vegas this week. So many that I'm actually confused as to how many there are going on (or have gone on). It seems like every time I check my phone there is something going on somewhere this week. It's very exciting.
Our trip started at the Portland airport on Tuesday night. I got off of work and drove with Jay to the airport, and instantly realized when we got there that we were in for something special. All over the airport were marijuana entrepreneurs waiting for their flights to Vegas. There was a lot of handshaking, business talk, and well wishes before we even boarded the plane. When we landed in Vegas we were supposed to attend an Arcview pre-party, but since our flight was pushed back and we landed late, we decided to explore Vegas a little bit.
This is the first time that Jay Smoker has ever been to Vegas, and he won a good chunk of money on the first machine he played, and I think I've seen him a few times since then for smoke sessions, but that's about it. Vegas has him now. Hopefully he surfaces by the time our flight leaves on Friday!
Our first full day in Vegas started with a breakfast with the people behind the amazing podcast Marijuana Today. I got to re-connect with an old friend Adam Smith. Adam Smith is one of the old school reformers that was pushing for the end to the drug war way, way before it was popular and fashionable to do so. Like I always tell people - just being around Adam Smith makes me feel better about the world. He's one of the best reform mentors that I've ever had, and so much of what we do here at The Weed Blog can be credited to his guidance, whether he realizes it or not. I also got to meet a laundry list of other amazing people at the breakfast, including a long time hero of mine Betty Aldworth. It was one of the most humbling things I've ever been a part of sitting around so many successful reformers.
After the breakfast Kaliko and I went to check into the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo and walk around. It didn't take long to start bumping into some very high profile, successful people in the marijuana industry. It seemed like every five feet I walked I would see someone I have been dying to meet for a long time. I finally got to meet George Jage, CEO of Marijuana Business Media (who is putting on the conference and expo). I have talked to him before on the phone and via e-mail but never in person, and that was awesome because he's a really smart guy and I like what he's doing.
One of the biggest highlights of my trip came next, and it's something that I'm still trying to wrap my head around because it was so awesome. After a phone call with my wife to check in and see how my son was doing, I spotted Robert 'Bobby Tuna' Platshorn, who served the longest prison sentence for a marijuana only offense. He was convicted for smuggling 3,000,000 pounds of marijuana and served three decades in federal prison. Since getting out of prison, Mr. Platshorn has been one of the biggest assets that the marijuana reform movement has, doing his Silver Tour which aims to change seniors' minds about marijuana, which is one of the most worthwhile pursuits I can think of with marijuana reform considering how important the senior vote is.
Maybe thirty minutes prior to talking to Bobby Tuna, I had just crossed off something that was at the top of my marijuana bucket list. I shook hands with Jeff Mizanskey. Jeff Mizanskey was recently released from a Missouri prison where he served 22 years of a life prison sentence for marijuana only offenses. Jeff's family, Missouri activists, and activists from around the world work very hard to get Jeff freed, and I have always wanted to shake his hand and thank him for all he has done and will do. Yesterday that happened, and it was fantastic. I also met Jeff's son Chris, who is a very nice dude, along with a couple of other Missouri activists that I have read about and worked from afar with but had never met.
I witnessed something yesterday that is now a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life. As I stood and watched from just feet away, I saw Robert Platshorn and Jeff Mizanskey meet for the first time. Below is a picture of Robert (middle), Jeff (right), and Jeff's son Chris outside of the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo about thirty seconds after shaking hands, hugging, and just being all around awesome:
I want to encourage, no, I want to DEMAND that the marijuana industry support these men. They have paid a very hefty price because of marijuana prohibition, and now they are working to reform marijuana laws. Their stories are very compelling, they are packed with talent, and they are going to change more minds than most people could ever imagine. The industry is going to benefit as a result, so the industry should be doing everything they can to support these guys' work. People would benefit beyond belief if they gave these guys a big pile of money to get their stories and efforts out there. I tip my hat to them, and as I told them in person, if there's anything that I can ever do to help them, just let me know.
After checking in and basking in the awesomeness that was seeing two marijuana living legends meet for the first time, Kaliko and I linked back up with Jay Smoker to inhale some things, and rested for a bit. I was recently diagnosed with arthritis in my foot (lame!), and with all of the walking that goes on in Vegas, I'm not as spry as I once was. But it was good because it gave me a chance to catch up on e-mails and some other things that I needed to do.
Later in the evening Kaliko and I attended the 5th anniversary banquet for the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). I got to meet some of their staff, some of which I met at a Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) event in Denver in 2012. I always love seeing organizations hiring SSDP alumni because after all, SSDP alumni are some of the most talented, passionate people that you will ever meet. The banquet was held at The Vortex at The Linq hotel and casino. It was a beautiful venue, and Kaliko and I stood for long pauses to just take it all in. The marijuana industry has come a long way from when National Cannabis Industry Association (and this blog) started 5 years ago. I have always admired NCIA's work, and I'm excited to see what they have planned for the future. There is so much federal legislation coming down the line in the near future, and a lot of it can be attributed to NCIA's valuable efforts.
After the banquet Kaliko and I went to a rooftop party at The Rio, which was hosted by Women Grow, who also hosted the Marijuana Today banquet that I had attended that morning. I think that I was easily the least dressed up person at just about every event we attended, including the rooftop party, but it was fine. I may not have a killer suit and necktie, but I have hash and a vape pen, and that's just as good in my opinion!
Today the expo opens up, and I can't wait to walk around and see all of the exciting ideas that people have in this industry. I talk to a lot of seasoned veterans at these types of events, and it's fun, but I especially like talking to people that are in the early stages of their pursuits. They are so full of passion and high hopes, like Jay Smoker and I once were before we got too jaded. I like telling all of them which pitfalls to avoid, and my advice and take on what they are doing, for what it's worth.
I also can't wait to walk the expo floor and tell everyone that will listen to support reform. All the suits, pitch decks, burn rates, scale models, etc. are worthless if this industry takes steps backwards and we go back into the dark ages of marijuana prohibition. People should be fighting marijuana prohibition because it's the right thing to do, but if people don't feel that way in this industry, then they should at least be supporting reform with everything they have out of self preservation. Seems like a no-brainer to me.