The Lesson of Roger Stone: The Weed World Was Hustled, Don’t Let It Happen Again

Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS/Getty Images

Roger Stone—the malignant attention whore with a penchant for bonkers, Alex Jones-level conspiracy theories, raiding the “Edward Gorey’s twisted industrialist” section at Macy’s and terrible tweets—was finally kicked to the curb this week by the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo (CWCBE), where he was scheduled to give a speech in Los Angeles next week.

This is good. It’s an expulsion that was long overdue.

What is bad, and what must never happen again, is the marijuana industry being so credulous and gullible to allow such an obviously opportunistic pretender to penetrate its ranks so deeply.

As Buzzfeed reported on Wednesday, Stone was removed as the keynote speaker for the conference, after a threatened boycott of the event led by the Minority Cannabis Business Association. 

That organization’s leaders (and many others) took offense at a series of public statements made by Stone disparaging black people, women and Jews. Among other choice gems: Stone, who is still a frequent guest on Fox News, referred to Herman Cain as “mandingo,” called New York Times columnist Gail Collins a “cunt,” and once co-authored a book that he dedicated to a Holocaust denier who believes 9/11 was a “Jewish plot.”

Let us not forget that Roger Stone has the face of Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, and whether or not it was actually Nixon’s intention to marginalize black people and the left by making marijuana illegal, as has been alleged, that has absolutely been the result.

Stone (who still refers to Nixon as “my mentor”) reacted with his characteristic erratic flummery.

“Sad day for the First Amendment,” Stone said in an e-mail to LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero, employing the same deliberately perverted interpretation of “free speech” deployed by other Trump supporters, like the white nationalists responsible for getting someone killed in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The expo is in breach of contract. I will be suing them for $1 million. I will not be deterred from my efforts to persuade the president to preserve access to legal medicinal marijuana consistent with his pledge to the American people.”

The fallout will continue for some time and will almost certainly claim more victims.

The CWCBE had already trotted Stone out as its keynote speaker at its New York City event in June—a platform Stone used to announce the launch of “the United States Cannabis Coalition,” a new nationwide political organization—and was planning to send him out again in Boston before Stone made it impossible for the charade to continue. 

You should also be aware that Scott Giannotti, a New York City-based “hemp activist” and the expo’s organizer, informed Stone’s opponents “how dumb you people are” for their boycott efforts, and may be ousted from his role as a result, LA Weekly reported.

This is good! The wider the circle of collateral damage, the better. Maybe then, we’ll all learn from this and not so easily be hustled by a rank opportunist with an obvious and hollow gimmick.

Roger Stone is a figure in Donald Trump’s own mold, which is to say he will do anything or say anything to ensure people are talking about him.

As you may know, weed is a big deal these days. The other big winner on Election Night, aside from populist nativism, was marijuana legalization.

And so, not long after Trump’s inauguration, Stone started his push to ingratiate himself into the weed world by criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Easy enough, with Sessions’ naked desire to use a crackdown on marijuana legalization as pretext for a wider push towards authoritarianism (and plenty ironic, given that Sessions’ strategy was pulled directly from the classic post-Nixon Republican playbook).

Central to this hustle is the fact that Stone has known Trump for decades, briefly worked on his campaign, and served him as a “hatchet man” for years before that. Stone insists the he spoke to Trump about marijuana sometime in the last “15 to 20 years,” and that Trump, who had made some vague statements about respecting states’ rights on weed before appointing to his Cabinet a gang of anti-weed zealots, could be swayed on the issue. 

Never mind that Trump tweeted in May that he hadn’t spoken to Stone “in ages.”

Here was a bona fide Trump confidante, talking about weed! And telling us exactly what we wanted to hear! How timely and refreshing!

Lines like this belong in the rubbish bin next to pick-up artists’ guides. But it worked.

Stone played the media about as hard as they’d been played by Trump the year before. People believed he had the president’s ear. Stone went on Bill Maher to eat a cannabis-infused cake.

“This man may be legal weed’s best hope,” VICE bleated in June.

If nothing else, it distracted from Stone’s ties to the Trump-Russia scandal, which had already snared Paul Manafort, Stone’s former lobbying partner and Trump’s former campaign manager, who took millions of dollars in fees from a pro-Vladimir Putin political party in Ukraine.

“Facts are in the eye of the beholder,” Stone told the Intercept.

This is extremely telling. In this same self-made, damn-the-facts way, a dude with a Richard Nixon bong who claimed to be cultivating a marijuana strain called “Tricky Dick” was able to position himself as a pro-marijuana Libertarian.

“Weed activist” is only Stone’s most recent outfit.

Before this, he was an “alternative historian” who, among other things, claimed Lyndon Johnson had John F. Kennedy assassinated (maybe, but what about the mob?) and that Nixon had a longtime, ongoing affair with a Chinese spy. (And before that, he was the operative who took claim for halting the Florida recount during the 2000 election, taking deep pride in subverting our democracy.)

Bullshit, some historians and journalists cried. Fuck you, a smiling Stone responded. Who cares if it was true or not? That wasn’t the point.

It’s always better to be talked about than not talked about,” he told the Miami Herald in 2014. “And the biggest sin in politics is to be boring.”

Roger Stone is undeniably a terrible person, a repugnant sore and a soulless ghoul. It’s in his resume. He’s proud of it! This makes him perfect to host a show on InfoWars, which is what he’s doing. This also makes him uniquely and wholly unqualified for a leading role—or a speaking role, or a role of any kind—in the marijuana legalization movement. 

Ending the drug war is a push that has its roots in social justice and the counterculture. These are things that Nixon—and Trump, too—would rather deport or call to be executed in a full-page ad in the New York Times than adopt as core values. 

There may be a shred of legitimacy for Roger Stone’s claim to cannabis. In 2013, he claimed that his cancer-stricken father had used cannabis during a cancer battle. A familiar and sad storyline… told a few months after he launched a longshot bid for Florida governor, central to which was a promise to legalize marijuana. 

There’s all you need to know.

In true Trump fashion, Roger Stone doesn’t care about legalization, any further than he cares about how he can use legalization to make himself relevant. He certainly doesn’t care about black and brown people being let out of prison. He definitely doesn’t care about police or prison reform—all threads with which marijuana legalization is woven.

It doesn’t matter what led the Cannabis World Congress, a recently-founded affair, to make Roger Stone its star attraction. Let’s assume best intentions and surmise there was a profit motive, or that Stone’s elementary-school razzle-dazzle worked like it had worked before. 

What matters is that cannabis has been had. Presenting Stone as some kind of icon or even fellow traveler is the equivalent of letting a Confederate sympathizer into a Black Lives Matter rally. 

Spy or opportunist, we were taken in by a pretender.

Now we’re a mark. Others will try this same trick again. We need to make sure it doesn’t happen again—and that Stone doesn’t find another credulous rube to latch onto.

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