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Richmond’s Craneway Pavillion goes green with weekend pot expo

on August 8, 2011

At 4:20 p.m. Friday, the Craneway Pavillion became a venue for all things pot.

The Pacific Cannabis Expo drew pot enthusiasts to Richmond for a gathering that lasted all weekend. Medical marijuana collectives, pot-paraphernalia sellers, and a variety of pot eaters, smokers and otherwise inhalers—all medical marijuana patients—were in attendance.

For those who were not patients, doctors were on hand to diagnose an ailment or affliction and prescribe medical cannabis to treat it.  Other entrepreneurs hoping to make a few bucks from the new medical marijuana boom or plain old-fashioned never-legal stoner culture hawked T-shirts, promoted new technologies for imbibing the plant, and pitched a variety of services like legal-to-toke-in limousine trips.

But it’s not about getting high, said Mary Dias, the event’s lead organizer – it’s about the patients.  “The idea is to get all of the information and all of these different vendors together in one place so people can see what’s available to them,” Dias said.

Raina Thomasson, another expo organizer, said medical marijuana fills a need for patients.  “A lot of people want an alternative to pills that have all these side effects and make people sick,” she said.

In addition to venders, the event featured a line-up of speakers and musicians, like the band Los Marijuanos, who rework pop songs into stoner-themed parodies.  Speakers hit on topics ranging from personal stories about how medical marijuana helps cancer survivors to workshops on the growing cannabis industry.

The medical cannabis industry is in legal limbo because of conflicting state and federal laws.  California passed Proposition 215 in 1996 legalizing the use of medical marijuana.  But under federal law, pot is still illegal.

Dias said getting through the red tape to set up the expo was frustrating at times, and she got pushback from Richmond city agencies she worked with to get permitted.

“They have this idea that we’re going to bring criminals to the city.  But really that’s all wrong, we’re creating a safe space for patients to come together,” Dias said.

For Magic Ellingson, who is better known by his activist moniker “Henry Hemp,” it’s only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized across the board.  “It feels like a time when people are awakening.  The Mayans said 2012 was when the whole world would go through a period of awakening, and that’s what cannabis does, it opens your mind,” Ellingson said.

Ellingson travels to medical marijuana and pot legalization rallies around the country to promote cannabis’ benefits and varied uses, which include hemp fiber, health benefits from hemp oils and extracts as well as use for nausea, anxiety, insomnia and a host of other maladies.

Organizers said several hundred people turned out to the Richmond event, but the crowd had dwindled to about two dozen people by the late Saturday afternoon.

Most of those who remained were vendors, some of whom were leaving early due to the small and dwindling attendance.  John Waffleman, packing up the table he manned for San Francisco’s Shambhala Healing Center, said the event was poorly executed.  “They didn’t do enough marketing, it’s at a location people don’t know, and the tickets were way to expensive,” he said.  “We’re actually losing money on this.”

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