Big GREEN Comes to Town

Last week’s column discussed Aloft’s first attempt hosting a medical marijuana conference in Jacksonville, and this week’s is about the second. The inaugural Florida Cannabis Coalition was held Oct. 28, a Saturday morning; the corridors were nearly full by 9 a.m., which no one was expecting. It may have helped that the hotel was packed with tourists in town for the Florida-Georgia game, which made for an interesting cross-section of people, mingling in the smoking section out front.

It was a very different crowd from the group that had assembled just five days earlier for the inaugural (and perhaps last, thanks to Reefer Madness-minded city officials) local Medical Marijuana Awareness Day. Local dispensary reps were augmented by vendors who’d traveled from as far away as Utah, paying fat fees to hawk their wares to a crowd that skewed younger and hipper than their peers earlier in the week.

Attendees included entities like Buds For Vets, CR World, Connie Siu, Diamond CBD, Gorilla Grow Tent, Green Roads World, Hydroponic Unique Goods, Printwise Promotions, Provida and Relief Resources. The folks from dōTerra even had Wild Orange vapors streaming from a diffuser, which is always nice. The tables featured everything from oils, cakes and energy drinks to lotions, potions and clothing, as well as virtually every imaginable technology.

The festivities began at 9:30 a.m. with a discussion on the politics of pot, moderated by Jermyn Shannon El, founder of the Cannabis Kollective, which organized the event. The panel included Dr. Terel Newton, city of Jacksonville’s statistician Drew Goble and me. Much of the talk centered on the ongoing opioid “crisis,” on which Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department has already spent more than four million dollars this year just transporting overdose victims, 464 of whom have died as of press time.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had made 806 arrests for offenses associated with possession, sale and distribution of marijuana through Oct. 18, 66 percent of whom were black, 59 percent black males, eating up more than 1,500 man-hours and costing nearly $150,000 to process them all. That’s nearly three arrests every day, more than robbery, rape, sex trafficking, arson, carjacking and murder combined. Despite all the rhetoric and the crocodile tears, marijuana arrests exceed even those for pain pills, heroin, meth, opium and the dreaded fentanyl combined, indicating that the current wave of death sweeping our city has resulted in very little real change, in terms of policy. Priorities, right? LOL!

It’s worth noting that, other than me and maybe three other people, there was virtually no overlap among the cadres who’d been in at the previous event at Aloft. They were completely different crowds, with a completely different vibe. One thing that all did have in common was a deep and sincere passion for wellness, and a desire to cut through the layers of disinformation that have imperiled progress on this issue for years. With the momentum now firmly on their side, however, one expects these events to become as common in Northeast Florida as they already are elsewhere in the state.

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