The National Cannabis Festival, an annual event held at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium festival grounds, celebrated progress in marijuana legalization in Washington, D.C., and across the nation April 22.
The festival, which featured concerts, games, contests, food and drinks, served as a reminder of the complicated federal cannabis regulations for District residents.
Groups and artists such as 2Chainz, Juicy J, Free Nationals and Backyard Band performed at the festival. The event also featured various stands with exhibitors, including Weedmaps, a company that uses location information to connect prospective cannabis buyers with ideal strains; Zippo, a company that makes customizable, high-quality lighters; and Takoma Wellness Center, a family-run medical marijuana dispensary.
Founder Caroline Phillips said she hoped that this year’s festival went beyond a concert and selling space for those involved in the cannabis industry.
“We hope that the National Cannabis Festival can become sort of like a South by Southwest for cannabis lovers where people are coming here for a full week of policy programming, cultural events and opportunities to network, all capstoned by the festival that takes place over the weekend,” Phillips told The Washington Post.
This year’s festival featured various panels on cannabis policy and politics. Politicians, business owners, economists, journalists and researchers discussed in these sessions solutions to marijuanas issues with legalization.
Andrew Beaujon, a senior editor and reporter at Washingtonian, shared his expertise in a midday panel titled “Legacy Operators and the New Medical Cannabis Amendment Act: What does the Future of Cultivation Look Like in D.C.?” Beaujon was joined by Beau Whitney, a leader in cannabis business consulting; Antione Pritchett II, CEO of a medical marijuana cultivation center; Diana Alvarez, owner of Lit City Smoke Shop; and Terrence White, owner of Monko.
Beaujon and other panelists on the “Legacy Operators” panel delved into the political, racial and socioeconomic implications tied to Initiative 71, a ballot measure in D.C.’s marijuana policy that legalized the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and the ability to gift up to one ounce to friends or consumers.
Beaujon told The Hoya that it is vital to recognize how race plays into conversations around cannabis in the United States.
“There’s a huge racial component to this. The drug war landed most heavily on Black and Brown people in this country,” Beaujon told The Hoya.
The festival followed the National Cannabis Policy Summit, which occurred April 20 at the Capitol and invited sponsors involved in cannabis legalization. The summit featured Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other politicians, as well as prominent voices in the cannabis policy space.
Beaujon said that he believes cannabis policy reform in the District may be far in the future and can only happen on the federal level.
“I seriously doubt that’s going to happen in my lifetime. I just don’t see the Republican Party giving up two more Senate seats. I think the action has to happen on the federal level,” Beaujon told The Hoya. “There has to be some kind of legalization.”
Beaujon said that despite his doubts regarding major policy change, the National Cannabis Festival served as a reminder of how cannabis has become an important part of the fabric of American life.
“Not too long after my panel ended, the skies opened up and there was a biblical rain. I had to walk to my car in that and wait to get out of it,” Beaujon said. “That is all to say, I was really blown away by how many people were there. This is not a tiny, uninteresting part of American life. This is something people really care about.”
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