ANAHEIM – They came to learn about marijuana laws, how to start a medical
dispensary business, what they could do to change the stigma of the drug.
Inside a cavernous hall at the Anaheim Convention Center, more than 1,000 people
gathered Saturday for Orange County’s first medical marijuana convention, an
all-day event called the Know Your Rights Expo.
Attendees swapped stories, perused 120 vendor booths and listened to talks by
medical advocates, political strategists, even a retired Orange County judge.
The only thing missing was cannabis itself; no medical marijuana was allowed to
be sold at the expo, and no drug use was permitted on the premises.
“All of the paraphernalia, insurance companies, doctors – it’s mainstream; they
are not hiding anything,” said retired Judge James Gray, a vocal critic of
America’s war on drugs and a 20-year veteran of the Orange County Superior
Court. “There is no question – marijuana will be regulated and controlled. It’s
just a matter of when.”
The Orange County expo comes just two months before California voters will be
asked to decide whether the legal sale of medical marijuana should be regulated
Proposition 19, if passed, would give further legitimacy to medical marijuana
use in California and help erode the lingering stigmas associated with the drug,
said Bob Calkin, founder of the Los Angeles-based California Cannabis Institute,
a seminar program that teaches people how to start medical marijuana businesses.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg; we’re defining now how the industry is going
to unroll,” said Calkin, as he manned his booth at Saturday’s expo. “If Prop. 19
passes, more people will want it and feel comfortable using it.”
On sale Saturday was everything from marijuana cookbooks and posters to storage
containers and hand-blown glass pipes.
At entertainer Magic Jason Ellingson’s booth, a comic book chronicling the
adventures of Henry Hemp was available for $3.
“Nobody should be in jail for a plant; no jail for pot, hemp seeds or anything!”
Ellingson said into a microphone as expo attendees walked by his booth, smiling
at the green foam hat shaped like gigantic marijuana leaf perched on his head.
At the Unconventional Foundation for Autism booth, parent Mieko Hester-Perez of
Brea recounted her controversial decision to treat her terminally ill, autistic
son with small doses of marijuana.
Joey, who was had been given just six months to live last year, weighed 48
pounds at age 10, Hester-Perez said. He was extremely aggressive, on 13
medications for autism, and had recently been diagnosed with anorexia and
malnutrition, she said.
After she began giving him carefully controlled doses of marijuana in a brownie,
his behavior improved, he gained more than 40 pounds and he went down to two
autism medications, said Hester-Perez, founder of the Unconventional Foundation
for Autism, which works with more than 100 parents.
“I saved my son’s life,” said Hester-Perez, whose story has been featured on TV
shows like Good Morning America and 20/20. “This is an alternative to parents
who have exhausted all other means.”
Hester-Perez said her decision came with great hesitation, and even at
Saturday’s expo, she explained how out of place she felt.
“I feel like a fish out of water,” she said. “I’m a non-cannabis user, and the
next booth over is selling marijuana pipes. But I’m here. I couldn’t sleep at
night knowing I could help another family.”
A few booths down from her was Other
Side Farms, a Costa Mesa cooperative that grows medical marijuana for about
200 members, including for young Joey and for Joanne Clarke, a Costa Mesa legal
secretary who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for the past 23 years.
“I was addicted to opiates (prescription pain killers), so I decided to withdraw
myself and try this,” said Clarke, who uses an electric convenience vehicle for
long distances. “I had smoked pot two times in my life and didn’t like it.”
Clarke said she started medicating herself with cannabis via pills and brownies.
“The pain goes away and it gives me energy,” Clarke said. “It surprises me I
don’t get high. I go slow and gradually.”
The expo was sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the National Organization
for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, along with the Santa Ana-based law
firm Glew & Kim.
Such expos have become increasingly common in recent years, popping up across
Southern California, officials said.
“I’m utterly enthusiastic Orange County is supporting this,” said prominent
medical marijuana activist Richard Eastman, who founded a similar event in West
Hollywood five years ago.
“There are still people here who say, ‘Reefer madness!’ and still doctors who
write prescriptions for dangerous (legal) drugs instead of cannabis. I’m
fighting for the right to be able to put the medicine I want to put in my own
Hundreds of people attended The Know Your Rights Expo, Orange County’s First
Marijuana Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday. The expo featured
hemp products, live music and informative speeches.
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Marijuana advocates flock to Anaheim expo By SCOTT MARTINDALE THE ORANGE