Home»Events»A captive 6400 people attended marijuana expo in Fort Worth

A captive 6400 people attended marijuana expo in Fort Worth

Heather Fazio with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy speaking with attendees at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. Photo by Arthur Mayer
Heather Fazio with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy speaking with attendees at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. Photo by Arthur Mayer

Twenty-four hours after the walls of the Ft. Worth Convention Center were filled to the brim with Trump supporters screaming “Make America great again!” over 40 speakers, 60 booths, and 6,400 people gathered to learn about one of the fastest growing industries in America, cannabis. The Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo was the first ever marijuana expo to be held in Texas.

Crowds of people swarmed the showroom floor, some wearing suits with marijuana printed on them, some wearing leis of leaves, even more pushing strollers, looking as routine as a visit to the mall. While still in existence, the dreadlocked stoner is becoming an ancient stereotype. Instead the modern marijuana industry is filled with collared shirts, suits complete with ties, and lab coats.

The booths consisted of everything from glass pipes and wooden lockboxes, to lawyers, various low THC hemp CBD oils, to cannabis activists fighting for positive change. Effective June of 2015, Greg Abbott signed into law the “Compassionate Use” act, which allows for the doctors to prescribe CBD oil with a THC content of less than 0.5% to epilepsy patients. All other forms of plant or extract containing THC are punishable with jail time.

Activist groups such as MAMMA (Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism) and Team Alexis, a group supporting 10 year old Texas refugee Alexis Bortell, wonder exactly what is compassionate about prescribing a medicine to only a small percentage of people who might need it. Currently autism is not a condition that qualifies for medical cannabis treatment in Texas. Through the before/after footage of three people on the autism spectrum, MAMMA demonstrated the positive effects, like increased speech and decreased self harm, that cannabis has brought to them.

A single child can change the laws of an entire country. MAMMA spoke about a child named Harper Elle Howard, who developed a rare type of epilepsy and treated it with CBD oil. They started a blog, hope4haper.com, that documented her progress, going from 40 seizures a day to 60+ days without any at all. A woman in Brazil, seeking help for her daughter with the same disease, had some oil illegally shipped to her. She had immediate results. They petitioned the Brazilian FDA, and not only did they change the laws after only three days, they said it would be “inhumane” to keep this from the suffering, and they even started subsidizing it through insurance.

Power Women In Cannabis at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. Photo by Andy Graf
Power Women In Cannabis at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. Photo by Andy Graf

Alexis Bortell is a native Texan who used to suffer from daily seizures caused by epilepsy. She tried every pharmaceutical on the market, and at best managed to make it three days without a seizure. Her parents took turns in shifts staying by her side every night in case she had a seizure. After many unsuccessful attempts the doctors suggested using a cannabis oil. Illegal in Texas, she had to move to Colorado to obtain her medicine. And that is where she has continued to live, 348 days as of this writing, seizure free.

Taking her medicine moments before she traveled home, Alexis stayed in Texas for less than a day to deliver her testimony about how cannabis oil, with THC, has given her the opportunity to be a kid again; to have sleep overs at other kids’ houses and to eventually go to Disneyland. Standing on a wooden crate so that she could see over the podium, with waist length brown hair tied with a bow, Alexis commanded the crowd and stirred several standing ovations. “I am probably the only kid in Texas who can say that I use marijuana every day and my Republican parents are proud of me.”

And proud they should be. She has gone almost an entire year without a seizure, and on top of that, had the courage to tell her story to thousands of people. Even stating that if necessary, she would become governor of Texas in order to see that all who can benefit from the healing properties of cannabis could be helped. So far, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has refused to meet her.

Women Grow gave a six woman panel titled “Power Women in Cannabis.” Participants included “The Martha Stewart of Pot” Cheryl Shuman, Our Cannabis Culture founder Drayha Sallis, and famed cannabis caregiver Nurse Heather. They spoke of the role of women in the developing cannabis industry, as well as expressing concern for some laws that might be inadvertently racist or sexist. Symbolically, it’s the female flower that provides the healing THC. While the male plant is incredibly strong and useful, it’s a dichotomy that can’t be overlooked. Women of America can and should become empowered by this wonderful plant. “Being a woman isn’t a barrier, but an asset.”

For the first time in history, three former NFL stars came forward to speak about their cannabis use; Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim McMahon, Heisman Trophy winning running back Ricky Williams, and defensive end, Marvin Washington. All three told stories of the struggles of teammates who had every sort of pharmaceutical shoved down their throat or injected into their skin. There were literally candy bowls filled with pills in the locker room. This lead to addiction and adverse side effects. It makes absolute sense that cannabis be used for its anti-inflammatory, stress relieving, and neuro-normative properties in the context of such a violent game. They hope to convince the NFL to sponsor tests on cannabis in the states where it is legal.

Gridiron Coalition: From left to right - Marvin Washington, Ricky Williams, Jim McMahon. Photo by Andy Graf - Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo
Gridiron Coalition: From left to right – Marvin Washington, Ricky Williams, Jim McMahon. Photo by Andy Graf

In order to make the game safer for all those who play, the coalition advocated helmetless and padless play until at least high school. While this might seem non-intuitive on the surface, they said that helmets encourage harmful play that can damage the neck and spine before the body is old enough to properly heal. They also feel that the football organizations should provide more care, stretching through retirement. If given the opportunity to repeat their career, all of the players said that they would do it all again, and they have no problems with their kids playing ball.

The keynote speaker for the event was legendary TV personality Montel Williams. Like his show, he stood in and around the audience, going from one isle to the next, engaging the entire crowd. His speech was an emotional roller coaster, bringing him to tears of sadness for his daughter, and then into rage about people’s claims that they are providing “medicine,” and finally to an impassioned call to service, challenging the crowd to become active to make change happen. Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999, Williams has been a vocal advocate of medical cannabis; and after his daughter was diagnosed with Lymphoma, he realized that the laws were absurd. It makes no sense that he can have no say in the chemicals put into his 26 year old daughter’s body, but politicians do.

Montel Williams at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. Photo by Arthur Mayer
Montel Williams at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. Photo by Arthur Mayer

His stance on medicine is very different, and even controversial compared to the popular notion of what that entails. While he doesn’t care about recreational use, if it is being used as, or sold as medicine, it needs to be grown in a certified clean room. He advocated bar coded growing from seed to harvest. It should be possible for any patient to know who grew their medicine, with what fertilizers, and their product is lab tested to insure no impurities. Williams has his own grower that provides for him, and has left partnerships with three different dispensaries in California for not following his strict requirements. “I don’t trust my uncle to make my Percocet, why would I for any of my medicine?” Patients need to be aware of charlatans selling snake oil with claims for cures. While it has been proven to have medicinal properties, it is not a wonder drug that cures everything. In addition, not every product or strain is suitable for every ailment.

The common theme of the expo was change, and anyone present could feel feel that heavy in the air. Expo Executive Director, Rory Mendoza, says “Legalization will happen, why not be prepared for it? The benefits outweigh the negatives. It will provide revenue to the state of Texas while helping people medically.”

Cannabis isn’t just a smelly plant that lazy hippies smoke. Anyone, and everyone, can have some benefit: from NFL stars to sick children. It is a little known fact that the United States is the biggest funder of cannabis research, but they export all of that, mostly to Israel. The only legal place to do cannabis research in the US is at the University of Mississippi. According to Montel, the university provides their handful of patients with a monthly canister of 500 joints of the “worst dirt weed you’ve ever seen.” This, he says, is not medicine.

Bring the research home and start providing care, instead of prosecution. At this point, if anyone denies the existence of research proving the benefits, they just haven’t looked.

Stay up to date with the latest cannabis news from a Texas perspective by following the Texas Cannabis Report social media pages.

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Andy Graf

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1 Comment

  1. March 4, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Very well covered. Thanks for the insight. That’s A LOT of people at the expo. Do you know if Tarrant had a problem with the convention ctr holding this (like the XXXpo in Dallas)?