by David Downs
Organizers expect up to 30,000 cannabis fans to flood into Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall September 3rd and 4th for The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo 2011.
Tickets just went on sale for the event, which is scheduled to feature three entertainment stages, 300 to 400 industry vendors, dozens of food trucks, and guest celebrities, experts and politicians from the movement.
“It's the first time ever a city shut down streets [for such an event]”, said Salwa Ibrahim, government relations coordinator for INTCHE 2011. “It's a big deal for Oakland.”
The annual event's usual home is the Cow Palace in Daly City, but venue operators there denied INTCHE 2011 a “215 area," citing recent ecstasy overdose deaths at an unrelated rave as the cause.
But stuck-up Daly City's loss will be Oakland's gain. INTCHE is going to attract massive foot traffic to places like Cafe Van Kleef and Flora, said Ibrahim. The 12th Street BART stop is just a block away, and bike racks will be brought in for cyclists.
“It's a real opportunity to bring as many people as possible to downtown Oakland. We're looking forward to other businesses benefiting,” she said.
Oakland also plans on having its own version of “Pride” that weekend — a pleasant coincidence, said Ibrahim, as the plight of stoners is increasingly compared to that of the gays.
“In many ways, pot is the new gay,” said Ibrahim, who has been an assistant to Rich Lee at Oaksterdam. “We've often considered campaign to encourage people to come out of the closet.”
The 2011 Expo will feature an open-air “215” area for medical marijuana patients right in front of City Hall in the Plaza. City officials were adamant that no smoking could occur on the plaza grass itself, but other than that, “it's kind of a natural fit. I think that it should be in Oakland. What we're trying to do is make Oakland and Oaksterdam a tourist destination and this really solidifies that,” she said.
“The police have been extremely helpful and willing to work with us,” she added.
Confirming early rumors, Ibrahim said INTCHE had planned to rent out the nearby Fox Theater, but “it got too complicated. We'd have to shut down so many streets.”
INTCHE owner Kim Cue and Ibrahim are now in the middle of booking entertainment, vendors and sponsors. Bhang Chocolates, Angel's Care Collective, and Harborside Health Center are among the first sponsors. You can learn more on the INTCHE 2011 web site.