Culture clash: HempCon kicks off in San Jose

June 15, 2012 8:07:05 PM PDT
You don't need to stick your nose in a jar to smell the marijuana at HempCon, a three-day convention about all things related to hemp and marijuana. All you need to do is walk down the aisles of vendors selling potted plants and pot-filled cookies -- and inhale.

You do need a prescription from a doctor to get into certain areas of the convention but there are three doctors stationed out front -- and a line out the door to see them.

But HempCon, which kicked off Friday, is happening in a city that still hasn't warmed up to the idea of medical marijuana. Although voters made it legal about 15 years ago, San Jose is still fighting over how to regulate the dispensaries, or whether they should be allowed at all.

Holding HempCon in San Jose "is a little sweeter," said Marijuana.net head writer Danny Reed, "because it shows that we're not just going to be pushed around and bullied."

San Jose's city council voted to cap the number of pot clubs earlier this year -- then backed down after opponents got enough signatures to put it on the ballot. Some wish city leaders wouldn't spend so much time on the fight.

"I think that there's a lot more issues that should be focused on than stopping a progressive medicine from reaching the public," said Alicia Nichols, an exhibitor at the convention.

But pot has a public relations problem -- and even more so this year with the 18-and-up HempCon happening right next to a 17-and-under volleyball tournament.

Exhibitors promise they'll be good neighbors.

There's no need to be concerned, said Chris Jennings, a cannabis antique dealer. "We're doing a really good job of policing ourselves, and making sure that there's no problems between the two events," he said.

Jennings said the crowd seems bigger this year and he isn't the only one with that view.

"I do think there are more people coming out that would not attend this five years ago," said HempCon host Jeffrey Peterson.


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