Tucked away in Tapestry Park on Deer Lake Drive, a good 20 minute drive south from the urban core, Aloft would seem an unlikely venue to host Jacksonville’s inaugural Medical Marijuana Awareness Day. But they did just that on a Monday with minimal fanfare or advance notice. The logic of that choice, or lack thereof, was made clear in conversation with the organizers, Marijuana Med Today’s Marc Matoza and Linda Bruce, a married couple who’ve been running these events up and down the state all year

Bruce explained that their initial plans to book a place closer to Downtown was discouraged, with vigor, citing indistinct pressures applied by religious conservatives who may or may not have seen the voluminous crowds in other cities and said “nope.” The result was an audience that numbered less than 200 for the two four-hour sessions held October 23. Speaking after the evening session, Bruce expressed strong doubts that they would ever return, so that may be a win for the haters.

No matter, though, because those who did show up, drawn only by a Facebook event page, were well informed, enthusiastic, and represented demographics that starkly contradicted outsider perceptions of the cadre. They were mostly white, mostly female and mostly upper middle-class. Fifty-three is the average age for MMJ patients in Florida, according to Cameron Vance, one of two registered pharmacists from the Medical Marijuana Treatment Center, which is a great first stop for noobs seeking guidance.

There were also representatives from most major dispensaries, including Trulieve, Surterra, Knox Medical and Aphria, as well as NORML, which has kept the faith on this issue since 1970. The gimmick tables would make a stoner salivate and attendees were given tote bags stuffed with pro-pot propaganda. There were samples of product on display, but nothing for sale, and no one there partook of anything. (I can’t speak with authority about their wares, but I happily report that their ballpoint pens are the shit.)

The Q&A session was scheduled to last only 30 minutes, but the spirited discussion went well over an hour, ultimately ending past 9 p.m. Afterwards, attendees adjourned to the nearby bar for a bull session of indeterminate length. Although it landed MMAD pretty much by chance, Aloft quickly distinguished itself as the default location for future events. Indeed, there was a second event, entirely unrelated, slated for just five days later. Read all about that event here, next week.

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