THC Exposed

2nd Annual Event Marks L.A. as Cannabis Capital

By Ron Garmon

Downtown Los Angeles is chockablock with conventions, trade shows and conferences, but the takeaway difference with THC Exposé 2010—set to run the weekend of April 23-25 at the Los Angeles Convention Center—came early in our interview with event honcho Brian Roberts. An L.A. native and longtime event promoter, Roberts is an ebullient advocate of his favorite plant.

“You take a pot seed and a tomato seed,” he begins, warming to a favorite talking point. “One you call a food and one you call a drug. I know the seeds look nothing alike, but run with it…without a hundred years of social conditioning, you’d never even make the distinction.”

But social conditioning, like everything else, evolves. Despite occasional bad noise in the mainstream press, Southern California attitudes toward the cannabis industry have mellowed considerably—particularly with medical-cannabis dispensaries now bringing millions of dollars a year to an economically paralyzed state. Out of all this activity forms culture and community, which Roberts sees as the obvious selling point of this year’s Exposé.

“We’ve been planning for nine months and the back end of the show has changed tremendously,” Roberts says. “We realized that walking around booth to booth might bore the audience. We brought more entertainment, like a 100-seat movie theater, where we’re gonna be looping 20 hours of documentaries and short films and comedies, all related to cannabis.”

The speakers list is less heavy on politics this year, and more on the how-tos of growing, stories of cultivation, instructive talks on pot genetics and nuts-n-bolts culture building—all with an emphasis on information and networking. “We’re not having preachers,” Roberts stressed. “I don’t wanna be preached at and I don’t think anybody else does. These will be panels where attendees can ask anything.”

Ruefully aware that many see an open mic as a business opportunity, he adds: “No one wants to listen to a 50-minute speech on how you’re the best pot lawyer in Los Angeles, but if you have a question, step up and ask.”

Scheduled for this year’s event (last year, it was called THC Expo 2009) are a hemp fashion show, live painting, scads of alt-art and graphics from the wacky likes of Ivan Art and a VIP space/chill center that sounds like something out of Burning Man.

“We can’t do stilt-walkers because of the potential for injury,” Roberts admits, “but there’ll be dancers in costume and a parade.”

Roger Steffens will bring the Bob Marley Museum and a tribute to the reggae superstar, while Richard Davis will display the Hemp Museum—chronicling, in Roberts’ words, “the astounding number of uses and equally baffling amount of vilification devoted to cannabis sativa.” The gonzo explorers at StrainHunters.com will relate tales of their pot expeditions in India and Africa, and more than 300 cannabis-related businesses will have booths, with thousands of items for sale to a public long curious about the cannabis business, community and lifestyle.

As to why cannabis culture has sunk such deep roots in L.A., Roberts gives credit to a larger culture of professionalism and self-indulgence—so often the same thing in the City of Angels.

“It’s like the entertainment industry in Los Angeles—cutting-edge,” the promoter says. “Especially when I lived in Amsterdam, I would be asked why Southern California is the center for this movement. You have people who make a lot of money like rock stars and film stars who want the best. I don’t know who they are and they might deserve shit, but they’re willing to pay for the highest quality. The competition to grow the best and best-tasting stuff is keen. The local restaurants do that, and so does the local hemp industry.”

TO GO

What: THC Exposé 2010.

Where: The Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 23; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, April 24; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 25.

Info: Visit www.THCExpose.com.

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