Suits and Ties Meet Ponytails and Dreadlocks at Day One of S.F. Pot Conference
By Anna McCarthy
Today was day one of three at NORML's 38th Annual Conference, which is being held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel off of Union Square. NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is a non-profit that has been trying to convince the world about marijuana's miracles since 1970. The theme this year, "Yes We Cannabis," evokes an already tried and true slogan, and a poster for the conference even features a rendering of President Obama, who is smiling and somewhat greener than usual.
Although the pot conference may have attracted more dreadlocked, bearded, pony-tailed, and sunglasses-wearing attendees than, say, a real estate conference, there were still plenty of suits in the room. These are the pot professionals. Many were tapping away at their laptops and iPhones as NORML's executive director, Allen St. Pierre, gave his introductory welcome talk this morning.
After a brief summary of the history and evolution of pot policy in the U.S., giving a nod to Obama's stance on how the feds should handle the drug, Pierre suggested that as federal laws might be loosening, state laws are simultaneously becoming increasingly restrictive. In the same breath, Pierre expressed concerns about the pharmaceuticalization of pot. In other words, Pierre seemed to take the stance that pot should go mainstream enough to be legal, but not so mainstream that Big Pharma can get its dirty hands all over it.
Pot culture may be going through some growing pains as it makes its way from subculture to mainstream. If the contents of SF Weekly's goody bag are any indication, pot culture is suffering from a full-blown identity crisis. Ours included a 275-page book on Drug War Facts; hemp string; a giant stoggie rolling paper in a green vial (we later realized that it was in the vial for good reason -- the fruity-flavored paper might be pungent enough to suffocate a small animal); a coupon for 10 percent off our next purchase at The Oakland Cannabis Institute; and a Halloween-sized pack of Starburst candy.
The rest of today's speakers will stick purely to issues involving medicinal marijuana, whereas the rest of the weekend will be a free-for-all about what NORML likes to call the "Zeitgeist of marijuana," including the latest on pot's legalization, decriminalization, and regulation. Stay tuned for a report on tomorrow morning's speaker at the conference, San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.