Shaking Off Pot’s Negative Image

Cow Palace hosts International Cannabis Expo

April 17, 2010 - It's been the site of many events over the years, from rodeos and roller derbies to rock concerts and controversial gatherings.

This weekend, the Cow Palace in Daly City tops all those shows with an international event aimed to educate and inform -- but likely offend many who already have opinions about a hot topic: pot.

The first-ever International Cannabis and Hemp Expo is a chance for the public to learn from vendors and speakers and see 100,000-square feet of displays showing off products to grow and ingest marijuana. Bands and musical acts will entertain and an onsite "medication tent" will allow people to, well ... medicate.

Horticulturist and author George Van Patten sees this weekend’s event as a way to help shake off the negative stigma associated with marijuana.

"I had to have a double life.” Van Patten said, "my marijuana life -- my cannabis life -- and my straight gardening life."

Until recently, Van Patten was known to the public as "Jorge Cervantes." He wore a disguise on the covers of his horticulture books because they were instructional guides to growing marijuana.

Van Patten decided to make his first public appearance under his true identity at this weekend’s expo.

Another first at the Cow Palace an area designated for smoking pot – legally. A tent set up at the event is open for card-carrying medical marijuana patients to medicate. Cannabis is not being sold at the expo but patients can bring their own.

The event’s organizer, Bob Katzman, said getting the vendors, the city and the fire marshal to sign off on the smoking tent took a lot of negotiation.

“We're here to peacefully exercise our rights." Katzman said. "We're here to try to change some laws, not break the law.”

Katzman believes that if the iniative to legalize pot passes in November, a cannabis convention won't seem so unusual.

Key figures in the move to legalize marijuana will be speaking at the event, including activist, businessman and Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee. He's the main thrust behind the legislation that just qualified for the November 2010 ballot to allow adults to use marijuana for recreational purposes. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is also scheduled to speak. He's sponsoring a separate bill to decriminalize marijuana in the state and allow adults over 21 to use it.  By JESSICA GREENE and TRACI GRANT.  Source.

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