Refusing to be hotboxed

HERBWISE: The huge International Cannabis and Hemp Expo descends upon Oakland

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Downtown Oakland: site of Oaksterdam University and this weekend, a 30,000-person open-air session of hemp and cannabis 101.

HERBWISE Karen Cue, CEO of this weekend's International Cannabis and Hemp Expo is taking me to school. "It's insulting to switch up those terms," she tells me.

The terms I switched up? I just asked her why it was important to have legal-for-cannabis-consumption "215 areas" at her upcoming event, which will draw a projected 30,000 marijuana patients and cannabis-curious folk, turning a full mile's worth of streets into an exhibition area in middle of downtown Oakland.

I'm standing by the validity of the question — but apparently I shouldn't have phrased it "why is it important for people to be able to smoke weed?"

"That's the terminology for recreational use," Cue says. The expo is not, she says, about getting blazed and blunted. Medical marijuana users pay $20 million a year to the California state government in what are called taxable donations. That should buy them some civil rights — and many advocates see having places to legally consume cannabis as a big deal. "95 percent" of the people that her expo is marketed to, Cue says, are medical marijuana patients.

The event has been growing larger every year. This is the first year it will be held in downtown Oakland, having outgrown 2010 and 2009's site, Candlestick Park. Cue calls the expo's old digs "kind of old, kind of rustic — it's got its good qualities about it, but we're looking at advancement." An Oakland local herself, she saw the possibility of holding the expo in a more accessible location — an outdoors area with a shady park, no less — a way to improve everyone's enjoyment of the weekend.

And after years of dealing with Candlestick (a state-owned facility), holding the event in the heart of Oaksterdam was a breeze. City government had rejected two cannabis expo event applications in the past, but Cue says the reputation of her group coupled with positive media reviews it has earned made the city's process relatively easy to work through.

"They did not ask anything of us out of the norm. But it definitely did raise the attention of the Oakland police" — a security concern that she hopes will be unfounded.

But this is no simple smoke-out (which I say in the most medicine-respecting way possible). Cue says the exhibition is also meant as an important learning opportunity about the parts of the marijuana plant you consume — and the parts you wear.

Hemp, as any good stoner should know, was once used by the US military to make uniforms, ropes, and parachutes. The government even released a short movie entitled Hemp For Victory during World War II promoting the material's importance to the American war machine. Drafts of the Declaration of Independence was written on the stuff, for chrissakes. It's more durable than cotton, hemp oil is a prime source of essential fatty acids — the list of reasons for its full legalization goes on.

For a crash course in hemp's utilitarian glory, Cue recommends checking out David ("Doctor") Bronner's talk at the expo. Bronner is a member of Canada's International Hemp Association, a hemp advocacy group that has no equivalent here in the United States. Learnin' will also be on tap at the expo's three stages of speakers, at vendor booths, and at Grow Op's portable marijuana-growing trailer.

Have fun, learn stuff — and don't call it weed. 

INTERNATIONAL CANNABIS AND HEMP EXPO

Sat/3-Sun/4 noon- 8 p.m., $18-300

Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakl.

www.intcheevents.com

WEST COAST CANNABIS AND MUSIC FESTIVAL

For even more cannabis celebration, check out next month's tune-and-toke fest — three days of live music powered by Rock The Bike's generator bicycles.

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