Pot enthusiasts gather at California cannabis expo
Medical marijuana users near San Francisco lit up Saturday at the opening of the two-day International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, where vendors displayed bongs, vaporizers, hash brownies and other marijuana-related products.
Organizers of the event at the Cow Palace said they insisted on having an onsite medicating area before holding the expo. Under a white-canopied courtyard, young adults in baggy jeans and baseball caps smoked alongside aging hippies.
Adrian Hernandez said marijuana use helps him deal with chronic knee pain.
"Everybody needs their medication when they need it," said Hernandez, who is in his 30s. "We'd have to step out and go hide in our cars."
In 1996, California voters approved a measure that allowed sick people to use marijuana if they have doctor referrals and an identification card.
But marijuana advocates want to take it a step further. In November, voters will consider a ballot measure on whether to legalize and tax pot in California.
Bob Katzman, chief operations officer for the expo, said one of the goals of the event — held in an arena that once hosted The Beatles and the 1964 Republican Convention — was to show just how big and far-reaching the state's pot industry has become.
"I think we're already mainstream," he said. "At least in Northern California."
Katzman said he obtained permission for the medicating area last year from the Cow Palace, which is controlled by the state, after years of negotiations. He credited the recent push to legalize marijuana in part for the approval.
The expo, and others like it, will help develop the multibillion dollar pot industry, said Bucky Fisher, national sales manager for Medical Marijuana Inc., which sells hemp-related products and provides services to ensure marijuana dispensaries follow the law.
"It makes the industry more of a community, more visible, more powerful," he said. "This country is definitely in need of a homegrown industry, and this could be it."