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A Night to Remember: The 1st Annual CannaGather (4)20 Awards (Video)

CannaGather founder Josh Weinstein about to hand the mic to one of the evening's honorees at the (4)20 Awards. Photo credit: Jaime Lubin.

This weekend the tristate cannabis community was out in full force for NYC’s annual Cannabis Parade. Originally started in 1999 as the Worldwide Marijuana March, the 2018 festivities brought together politicians from both major parties, cannabis educators and activists, and even gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon (best known as Miranda Hobbes from Sex and the City) to rally for legalization. Honeysuckle was pleased to note that many of the landmark event’s speakers were experts that had recently been celebrated at the inaugural (4)20 Awards on April 17, hosted by CannaGather, the premiere cannabis industry networking organization in New York.

Honeysuckle has had a deep affinity for the CannaGather mission and team since 2016, when we first met their Director of Outreach, Rani Soto. Sensing mutual interest in the normalization of counterculture and social justice, Soto invited us to one of CannaGather’s signature meet-up events at Galvanize NYC in Soho. Their purpose, he explained, was to bring together businesspeople and advocates in the space, and educate those working to develop the East Coast, especially New York and New Jersey, as a hub of the cannabis industry.

The rest is history: Soto’s inclusion piqued our interest in the cannabis community and instigated our continued content on the topic. We’ve since been proud to learn, through constant presence at their forums and communication with their team, the wonderful work now being done by the sector’s top figures in business, science, activism, legalization and more.

At the (4)20 Awards, hosted at Galvanize, founder Josh Weinstein adhered to the invitation’s black-tie proviso, appearing in full tuxedo. Some attendees followed suit; others dressed more casually, but still on theme (PussyWeed T-shirts, anyone?). For those paying attention to the biggest news stories of the past year, there were some huge canna-celebs in the house.

NFL player-turned-entrepreneur Marvin Washington would be recognizable anywhere; the towering Renaissance Man was honored for his activism as one of the main plaintiffs in the class-action suit against US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The case, which challenged the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act (which currently keeps cannabis from being federally legal, as it’s classified a “dangerous” Schedule I drug), went to US District Court in February 2018, but was dismissed less than two weeks later. It’s now in appeals. CannaGather spotlighted not only Washington, but also lead counsel Michael Hiller of Hiller, PC and the entire team, including attorneys Lauren Rudick, Joseph A. Bondy, and David Holland, and plaintiff Jose Belen.

The Entrepreneurs category honored many female pioneers in the business. Joy Beckerman, founder of Hemp Ace International and a long-time figurehead in both the consumer cannabis and hemp sectors, was recognized at the Awards. So were Tahira Rehmatullah of Hypur Ventures (formerly General Manager of the Marley Natural brand), PR legend Pamela Johnston of strategic consulting firm Cloud 12, and Kristina Garcia, Gia Morón, and Tanya Osborne of Women Grow.

“We also have to do our part in making a difference… That’s part of the whole reason why I joined this space,” says Morón, an acclaimed PR specialist in her own right. “It’s because I wanted to see reflections of ourselves in the space that we work in… We want to invite more people, at every level of their career, in.”

See Gia Morón’s full speech in the video below.

It was a special night for operators in the medical field, both direct providers like the Peckham family who run Etain Health (New York’s only women-owned dispensary), and bigger firms like iAnthus Capital, which invest in dispensaries and processing facilities (executives Hadley Ford, Randy Maslow, and Kim Volman were honored). Kevin Murphy, CEO of operations firm Acreage Holdings and a cannabis legend, made a rare live appearance and gave an impassioned speech on his deep-seated belief in the power of the community.

Investors and champions of the cause reigned supreme. Barbara Koz Paley and Jeanne Sullivan of The Arcview Group looked regal as they acknowledged their award. Veteran activist Leo Bridgewater, representing the New Jersey Cannabis Commission and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, was energetic as always when he took center stage to shout out the great work being done on the local level. New York State government officials even got into the act, with Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, Senators Diane Savino and Elizabeth Krueger, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried all being honorees for their efforts on behalf of cannabis policy reform.

CannaGather bestowed its first Lifetime Achievement Award on the illustrious Ethan Nadelmann, founder and former Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. The renowned speaker delivered a rousing keynote address to cap off the evening, reminding everyone what really matters in this fight.

“You all stand at the intersection of a new era in American politics and economics and culture,” Nadelmann stated.

Never before in American history has a movement built entirely on concerns for personal freedom, for social justice, for racial equity, for good public policy, resulted virtually as a byproduct in the emergence of a legal industry that is soon to make tens of billions of dollars a year… What that means is that all of you out here trying to make a dime, make a million, do not forget how this movement began. Do not forget that you are beginning to profit and exist in an industry which, before it became legal and even now, resulted in the incarceration and arrest of tens of millions of our fellow citizens, and hundreds of millions around the world, which unleashed powerful police agencies and all sorts of terrible things. What does that mean? It means, first of all, do it right. You have to aspire to being a model industry.

See Ethan Nadelmann’s full speech in the video below.

https://youtu.be/h8OeLQSTVu0

As the room exploded in applause, we thought about how lucky we were to be on the precipice of this intriguing community, listening to its most sincere and visionary individuals in one of its prestigious inner sanctums. If you want to understand the cannabis industry from those who live it, CannaGather is definitely the place to be.

Make sure to check out their next event at Galvanize on May 29, featuring Nick Kovacevich, CEO of Kush Bottles (@KushBottles)! Early bird tickets are available on their site here.

For more about CannaGather, visit cannagather.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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