Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Mandalay Bay Cancels "Cannapalooza" Event
Cannapalooza, the three-day cannabis culture convention that had been scheduled to be held in Las Vegas from March 19 to 21, has been canceled by the Mandalay Bay casino, according to the event's official website. Although Nevada, like California, Colorado and a growing list of other states, has legalized marijuana for medical purposes, it remains illegal under federal law, so the fact the casino ever even considered inviting thousands of stoners to come and hawk their "herbal" growing equipment, smoking paraphernalia, vaporizers and the like is amazing in and of itself. One can also imagine that the casino might have gotten a few angry phone calls from law enforcement types.
According to a statement by executive director Louis Woznicki on the Cannapalooza website, the casino is telling people who are calling to cancel their room bookings that it was the event planners who stopped the show. "For the record we have never even remotely considered cancelling," Woznicki wrote. "Our show, right from the beginning has been carefully crafted and nurtured, and at the time we were terminated, had amassed a huge and fervent following from both attendees and visitors from across the country and around the globe." You can read the rest of Woznicki's statement here.
Yvette Monet, a spokesperson for Mandalay Bay said the company would not discuss the show's cancellation. "Our policy prohibits us from revealing details of business contracts with any convention customer," Monet said. "The contract was terminated for a variety of reasons."
"I think the reason is fear," Woznicki said in an interview with the Weekly today, adding that he was still recovering from the shock of having the convention shut down. "They were scared. The event was going to be open to 50,000 members of the public and was growing, if you pardon the expression, like a weed," Woznicki said. "More and more people were coming on board. It was too big and too much and they didn't know what to do or how to handle it." He received the news in the form of a contract termination letter last Thursday, Jan. 27, which arrived without subsequent elaboration.
Perhaps the casino was concerned about mass arrests. Prior to the Cannapalooza's cancellation, Woznicki had invited the Las Vegas Police to meet with him to address any questions they had--only to have 22 cops from various law enforcement and regulatory agencies, including the Clark County Sheriff's Department and the Nevada Gaming Commission, show up. "I felt ambushed at that meeting," he said. "It started off with them telling me that all vendors with paraphernalia would have their merchandise confiscated and be subject to arrest or fines."
Woznicki protested, arguing that liquor stores up and down the strip sell glass pipes. He offered to have vendors display signs saying the pipes were for tobacco use only, but received no promises that this would keep anyone from being handcuffed. Woznicki adds that one person at the meeting told him that "potheads" were bad for Vegas. "We make our money with people who drink alcohol and gamble," the person told Woznicki, and "people who smoke pot don't drink and don't gamble."
Despite the cancellation, Woznicki says he hopes to keep the Cannapalooza name alive. "We've had offers from other cities to do it there," he said. "Everyone is saying they want to do it. And that's how things started in Vegas. I talked to all the casinos and they all wanted to do it; Mandalay just happened to have the right weekend open. They were very enthusiastic at first but as time went on, they saw what was going on and started to become a little cannaphobic."
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