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Popular HempCon Faces Changes If Marijuana Is Legalized

It would appear that the legalization of cannabis may have a negative effect on events like to HempCon.

SF Gate reports:

Monica Leon waited outside the Cow Palace Saturday morning, beneath a low-lying cloud that lingered above the heads of the 100 or so people waiting in line around her. She took a long drag from a joint and passed it to the guy next to her.

People cheered with excitement. Loud reggae music echoed out of the nearby building. A strong aroma filled the air.

It was the second day of HempCon, the popular cannabis industry event that fills the Cow Palace a few times each year with an array of eager-to-sell medical marijuana vendors, paraphernalia enthusiasts, marijuana activist groups and interested medical marijuana cardholders.

A large group of people waited eagerly in the parking lot for the doors to open at 11 a.m.

“The whole event is quite an experience in itself,” said a Hayward man who only identified himself as Leon and came to HempCon with friends and family. “You can leave with a whole bunch of free goodies and just have a good time. I really don’t think weed is as bad as people think.”

Different vibe for some

More than 10,000 medical marijuana cardholders and 250 vendors were expected to fill the aisles of the Cow Palace over the weekend, sampling cannabis-laced popcorn, body lotions and even French macaroons.

Despite the excitement and positive vibes, Saturday’s event seemed to have a different feel to many in attendance.

With a possibility of a marijuana legalization initiative appearing on the November ballot, event organizers, vendors and medical marijuana users alike were excited about the change, but wary of HempCon’s future.

“Grandaddy Mike” was one of these people. He rode a large Segway up and down the aisles of the Cow Palace Saturday afternoon, his tall stature, long silver braid of hair and marijuana-leaf-decorated hat setting him apart from the crowd.

Officially Michael Grafton of Oakland, Grandaddy Mike attended the event as a proponent of the Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act, a California initiative he hopes to get on the November ballot.

He is one of many people who fear the future of HempCon because another initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, with more financial backing than the initiative he supports, stands more likely to pass. And that, he said, would come with drawbacks.

That competing measure “wouldn’t allow any of this to happen,” Grafton said, referring to parts of the initiative that would prohibit public consumption of cannabis and possibly mean the end to HempCon as everyone currently knows it.

Fearing for event’s future

Chris Cope, CEO of iBudtender, a company Cope calls the Consumer Reports of the marijuana industry, said he would imagine a similarly bleak future for the event if the more restrictive measure passed.

“If it does pass, it could really hurt these events,” he said.

Cope said what will happen really depends on the specifies of what gets enforced.

Results could range from large corporations taking over or stiffer regulations leading to a different overall structure and feel of the event, he said.

“That’s what we’re afraid of, but know is coming,” he said.

Cope was confident some sort of initiative would pass in California soon, if not in November.

“The way the whole wave is going, I’m sure it’s going to happen,” he said. “The tides have turned.”

Many people at Saturday’s event were thrilled at the idea of legalization.

Carleisha Outley of Sacramento was one of the more optimistic. She attended HempCon Saturday, wearing a Cheech and Chong T-shirt and a large grin. She said she loves the chill atmosphere and good times marijuana can bring to the community.

Legalization “will make things better all around,” she said. “I think it could only make the event bigger and better than it is now.”

Kevin Schultz is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kschultz@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @KevinEdSchultz

 

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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