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Sep-07-2018 13:18printcomments

The CannaBiz Convention that Wasn't.

"Camping on the Capitol steps is not allowed"

Shane Lemco
Shane Lemco, event organizer, speaking to Bonnie King, Salem-News.com.
Photo: Christian King

(SALEM, Ore.) - The third weekend of August is always a big deal for the NW cannabis community with multiple events stacked up on the calendar. The biggest and best is in Washington, the Seattle HEMPFEST PROTESTIVALTM, the world’s largest gathering advocating cannabis law reform.

In Salem, the Cannabiz Convention was held at the Oregon State Capitol. The well-known Kottonmouth Kings were given top billing on the event posters, and fans were thrilled.

Normal Bean & the Love Family were to open for Kottonmouth Kings (KMK), and other bands slated to perform included DJ Git Down, Udey, Felony Flats, Chris Carpenter, X Day, Tawsicc, C-Ry, Rich Jame$s and One Dollar.

Speakers were to include William Moseley, Paul Stanford, Sean Beeman, Teressa Raiford, Shane Lemco (the “Voice of Independence”), and others.

Renegade Radio and Ripple Entertainment planned to simulcast Saturday’s event to appear on the big screen at the Seattle Hempfest, an exciting cross-promotional opportunity.

For the last three years, this Salem event has been a worthy “smaller” canna-destination offering live music, expert speakers and colorful vendors with unique product lines. This year was different however, a convoluted chain of events occurred, inevitably ending the Cannabiz event by one fail swoop of the Oregon State Police.

Delayed Action

A slow, lackluster beginning on Friday might have been a sign of what was to come, but the cannabis industry has hard-earned tenacity. It takes more than a little disorganization to throw them off course. This particular event tried even the sturdiest of advocates.

Vendors and speakers showed up and were delayed for logistical reasons. By mid-day Friday, booths had been assembled on the sidewalks in front of the Capitol. Unlike years past, at the direction of organizer Shane Lemco, they were not on the Capitol Mall lawn area, and neither was the stage.

Speakers arrived and discovered they did not have a hearing room reserved, or a panel to participate in, and were unable to take the podium on the Capitol steps until 5:00 pm, the same time the music was to begin.

Because the stage was in front of the main entry to the State Capitol, the publicized 4:20pm music kick off did not happen. When the end of business day finally came and the front doors of the Capitol were locked, the show started.

Jewelry by Melody Reid

From that point on, the music was continuous as 8 different performers took the stage below the gold man for a free show for all.

Speaker Teressa Raiford is a positive voice, a local organizer whose work focuses on youth empowerment, education, police accountability and ending violence in our communities.

“It was really a beautiful day. I got there earlier than I needed to but I use my time well. People were there for all the right reasons. We had many great discussions, educating voters and sharing information,” said Teressa Raiford.

"My message to Oregonians is ‘Don’t stop now! Don’t leave it at ‘legal!’! Too many people are focused on getting rich instead of using their passion to help with social justice.

"The OLCC fees are the focus, the bureaucracy is taking all our time, and not the community-connection that we should be achieving. The money that’s coming in from cannabis should help Oregon supplement all the issues that need the resources.

“Oregon has the third-highest high school dropout rate in the nation, we rank #38 in literacy, and the 16thhighest suicide rate. These are critical issues of human rights, and they’re not getting any better. I believe overlooking these priorities undermines the voters’ intent.

“I asked to speak promptly at 5 o’clock, and left soon thereafter, it had been a long day. A good one, for sure. So, I planned to be back Saturday.”

As the evening progressed and the sun went down, revolving colorful “party” lights danced across the front of the Oregon State Capitol building. It was quite stunning, a sight to be seen. Event-goers had a memorable time dancing to live music on the Capitol steps on a perfect, hot summer night.

Kicked to the Curb by OSP:

The event ended at 10pm. The crowd disbursed. There was an after-party up the street at Schlotsky’s, and several vendors met there, leaving a skeleton crew to oversee the event site. Unbeknownst to those celebrating a successful day, there was turmoil afoot.

OSP and Edward Biggar

Around 10:30 p.m., the State Police approached vendors who were on Capitol grounds, intending to camp in their spots overnight. They told them there was no permit for them to stay onsite after hours.

Portia Lee asked the police, “We can’t have tents here?” “They answered, ‘No, you can’t have anything here!’” They argued that the event organizer, Shane Lemco, had secured the permit and they were legal to be there.

Police asked Shane Lemco for his permit, as it is to be on the person organizing an event at all times.

Lemco searched through his car but was not able to find the permit.

According to Shane Lemco, without any notice, the police gave them one minute to pack up and be off State Capitol grounds, “then the state police confiscated vendors’ tents and merchandise without any due process.”

Others at the scene clarified the interaction, explaining that the police had actually given Lemco “one minute” to produce the permit that he claimed to have.

The vendors were given 30 minutes. That is still not enough time to properly pack and be off premise.

“We contested, then the police called their supervisor, they told me we were in violation,” said Normal Bean.

“They had the right to shut us down. We were told at that time anything left on the property would be confiscated. They proceeded to rifle through all the vendors’ booths.”

Without producing a permit to OSP, Lemco walked to Schlotzsky's to alert vendors to return to their property before it was too late. He did not return to the Capitol immediately.

“Shane was present for a couple of the conversations but primarily, we were contacting vendors and trying to help everyone get the things they could before any seizures,” said Portia Lee, manager for Normal Bean.

The Oregon Capitol Parks and Rec permit dept. confirmed that Shane Lemco had a permit for the Capitol lawn across the street, as the year before. He simply chose to not use it.

“He knowingly misled, lied to, and set every one up as so to break the law/and or make it look as the police shut this down,” said Martin.

There were NO Pot-Related Busts

No one was ticketed, fined or arrested for cannabis use. One person was arrested for DUI, but not for pot.

Along with everyone who arrived on the premises, Ryan Skidmore, from CannaPages, was interviewed by Police. He and his team had left the event earlier, then he got the phone call alerting him that their booth would be taken down and confiscated by police if he didn’t show up fast.

Upon his arrival, he was detained and ran through sobriety tests then was booked at 5 am and released at 6:30 am. Skidmore had multiple bee stings on his face that he was being treated for via legal prescriptions. During the lengthy, 4 ½ hours with law enforcement, he says he was accused of “hot railing coke and meth” perhaps motivated by his injured and swollen appearance.

Eventually they ticketed him for driving while suspended, which he says he did “against my better judgment. I was told the Police would confiscate the property if I didn’t come for it. My driver was already gone and there was no one else to do it.”

His car was towed, and his booth/products impounded by the police. It took most of Saturday for him to recoup his property.

Katy Watson, event merchandising manager, helped Skidmore retrieve his car. “I am so grateful for her help. I see people attacking her, she was working for someone that she didn’t really know. Like myself - I had no clue what kind of dude this Shane guy really was,” Skidmore said.

Saturday in the Park... Alone

Without knowing what had transpired the night before, many of us converged on the Capitol grounds Saturday mid-morning, expecting to see vendors-a-plenty with music ringing in the air. Instead, silence. A Capitol grounds worker told me they didn’t understand where everyone was, since they had a park permit until 10 pm. The mystery continued until I ran into Shane Lemco near the Capitol steps, and then I realized it was more of a drama than mystery.

Lemco explained that the event had been “shut down by the State Police” the night before, and showed me a letter that explained the terms of his park permit.

The host of expert speakers and performers were called off, or came on time and entered an empty, altered space.

“When I showed up the next day ready to go and everything was gone, I was... shocked,” said candidate Teressa Raiford.

Paul Stanford called Lemco Saturday morning and was encouraged to come. Since he had announced that he would be there on Facebook and his live weekly internet & cable TV shows, he decided to go. “When I arrived, I noticed I had a message sent 90 minutes prior from Shane Lemco saying not to come.

“Lemco says that he has evidence of his permit and booking the KMK, but I haven't reviewed it. A public event organizer is required to have the event's permit on-site for verification and review. It is sad that this has led to financial losses and at least one verified arrest that I have been told of,” added Stanford.

“I did stop by the Capitol the next day at 11 and nobody had any idea what was going on,” said vendor Melodie Reid.

“They took the sound out the night before and the police were around, so I just went home. I’m still asking Shane for a refund, no vendors were able to make any money off of that show.”

This was the third year Donna Rodriguez was at this Salem event as a vendor. She says that Lemco told her Saturday was called off due to “the OSPD harassing vendors”.

“The sponsor told me about why we weren't able to carry on our event - not due to his fault but due to the OSPD event of late Friday night.”

Rodriguez said that “only on Saturday does he get a call later on in the day from OSPD telling [Lemco] he can now carry on with the event. The OSPD set this up for failure. Really sad.”

“If not for the actions of a few, Saturday would have been an amazing day,” said Lemco.

The Chaos Before the Storm

“The event was shut down due to Shane’s negligence,” says Dan Martin, with Hemp Nation. “We were about ready before OSP showed up. Once the cops came, we were done.”

“All of our civil liberties were jeopardized because of his actions and behavior. A lot of good people’s integrity is at stake.”

“I was lied to about the Kottonmouth Kings... Shane Lemco knew days before they were never coming,” said musician Normal Bean.

The Kottonmouth Kings’ logo is front and center of the 2018 Cannabiz Convention poster. The popular hip hop group from Placentia, Orange County, California, was slated as the headliner at the Convention. Or were they?

Portia Lee works with Normal Bean. “We had a conference call with Shane on Thursday, the day before the event. What he said during the call made us think twice about attending. However, we decided to go and make the best of it.

“We brought all the sound equipment and were supposed to be running sound Friday & Saturday, and opening for the Kottonmouth Kings.

“Once we got there, someone else told us Kottonmouth Kings wasn't coming. When we asked him [Lemco] what was up, his response was a series of excuses. That was just the beginning of the chaos,” said Lee.

Merchandising manager Katy Watkins said, “He told me on Friday that the Kottonmouth Kings weren’t coming.

“Then, when I questioned him, he said they weren’t ever scheduled to perform, that it was a misunderstanding, and instead the plan was for just one of them to be on a speakers’ panel.

“This was news to me. The poster is pretty clear that they were to perform, but not according to Shane.”

When asked about KMK on the event Facebook page, Lemco answered: “They're actually scheduled to do a panel, however, due to scheduling issues only one will be there for the panel and even that may not pan out. But, don't let that deter you as this is not only going to be an amazing and epic event, but one that is absolutely historical as well. We're gonna be talking pot, regulations, and cannabis community in the State Capital building.”

In early July, the Kottonmouth Kings (KMK ) promoted the Convention on D-Loc’s Facebook page. This one reference has been an integral factor in Lemco’s justification for not announcing that they were not performing.

Lemco says that the Kottonmouth Kings are responsible for creation of the poster, not him. “The flyer/magazine ad was designed by KMK graphic artist and sent to Dope Magazine and flyer printing company by KMK,” said Lemco. His understanding is that he is not accountable for his event's promotional materials.

Ryan Skidmore said Lemco did not confirm with Kottonmouth Kings, and no arrangements were made for their accommodations. Lemco says he has an email thread proving the confirmation.

Either way, none of them showed, and Lemco neglected to share that they would not be showing up, even with his own team.

“I was disappointed and surprised... but I felt like it was important to make the show a success, with or without them. I tried to stay on plan, to make the best of the situation,” said Watkins.

“I believed Shane to be sincere, and I kept working, doing what I came to do.”

Travis Chesnik says he had a similar experience with Shane Lemco during set up of the pre-Hempfest campout at Silvercreek Falls 4 years ago. “Myself and the crew of 15 volunteers were there for the weekend but were all gone by 11pm Friday night. It was a weekend show. He is a disgrace to the cannabis community in all avenues and what it represents.”

“He told Silver Creek Falls it was a wedding! Permits or not it’s just one of the “biz ethics” Shane operates with."

Another scheduled event that didn’t come through was the publicized beer garden.

“Shane took 40 hours of drug and alcohol classes so he could have a beer garden at the event. Who does that?” Portia Lee asked, rhetorically.

“Who pays to serve alcohol at a marijuana event, doesn't confirm the bands, can't produce the permits when the officers ask for it, and leaves while everyone & everything is in chaos?”

On Friday, no beer garden appeared. Portia Lee asked Lemco if the beer garden was going to happen.

“He said, ‘Yes! On Saturday, on the Capitol steps!’, like he was making some sort of a statement by doing that,” Portia said.

In general, a beer garden at a cannabis event is frowned upon. Often, cannabis users are medically motivated, and alcohol is not the answer to what ails them. A tented “weed garden” for private cannabis consumption is more sought after, and in the future may be legally allowed.

By Saturday, the whole event had been called off, so whatever point Lemco might have hoped to make by serving beer on the steps of Oregon’s State Capitol during a cannabis convention became moot.

The Question of what the Permit Permits

I spoke to Shane Lemco Saturday morning, in the empty space where vendors should have been. He told me he secured the event permit Feb 18 2018, and he fully expected “the same good treatment” by officials as he’d received in previous years.

I did not see his permit and he did not share it at any point. A few days later, via a public records request, I received the park permit that Lemco neglected to make available to law enforcement.

This is the permit issued for use of the State Capitol State Park grounds (Wilson Park, Capitol Park, and the Capitol Mall area), which were all selected. There is no fee for any of these reservations. He checked the boxes for obtaining a food permit (Marion County Health Department) and a noise permit (City of Salem).

It does not include alcohol, and it does not include the Capitol steps: Shane Lemco Event Reservation.

As for the Capitol steps, according to the Oregon Legislative Administration office, Lemco reserved the Capitol Building and/or Capitol steps for the evening of Friday, August 17 from 5-10 pm only. He did not reserve the area for Saturday or Sunday. He did not have permission to set up a stage on the Capitol steps, or to serve alcohol.

At no point did Lemco ask to have a beer garden, or receive any such permission for alcohol to be at the event. Lemco would have been required to have $4 million insurance coverage, and according to Kevin Strandberg, OPRD Manager, he did not provide this or any notification of planned alcohol use to the Oregon Parks & Rec Dept.

Alcoholic beverages are not allowed on any part of State Capitol State Parks without a permit. Another thing that is not allowed is camping, in any form, at the Oregon state Capitol.

“Vendors did not camp,” Lemco exclaimed. “A few were selected to remain overnight to secure stage, sound, lights, tents and merchandise. This consisted of sound crew, vendors and a band.”

This is a typical arrangement for many such events, it is how they keep the equipment and other merchandise safe overnight. Lemco claims a precedent was established by the last 3 years, whereas certain persons were allowed to stay on site overnight.

“Although State Parks also does not allow camping, troopers do seem to recall one person staying in the past to watch the stuff,” said OSP Captain Tim Fox.

“Events that go multiple days do leave a security team overnight,” said Kevin Strandberg. “Event organizers work with us and OSP and there are no problems. It’s not camping, though.”

So what was different about 2018?

“I was under a reasonable full belief, as no notice of change had been served, we would have such special privilege stated in the permit,” says Lemco.

He supports this belief with wording from a document, which says “...from 8 am on the 16th through 10 pm on the 20th...” Because of “the use of the word through and being that there was no time specified for the individual days to end.”

It seems there was a change from last year, however, and it was known to Lemco. It all comes down to where they were.

“We have set up on the Capitol lawn before, and it was great,” says Portia Lee. “But not this year. During our call, he told us ‘we don’t need a stage anymore, we’re doing it on the steps of the Capitol!’ So we did.

“It changed everything though. Because vendors were not set up on the lawn, they couldn’t stay out of the way. Instead, they were on the sidewalk and the entry to the Capitol, and the State Police were just not having it.”

“The first thing to make clear is that the State Capitol is different from the surrounding State Parks – two different entities,” said OSP Captain Tim Fox.

“The permit for the Capitol was from 5p – 10p on Friday. They were then planning on camping on the Capitol steps, which is not allowed. The Capitol Mall Sergeant says that their tents and belongings were still on Capitol property at midnight. They had lowered the pop up tents over them and left them there.

“The troopers asked to see their permit which they were shown an application for a permit from State Parks but were not shown a permit," added Fox.

Even if he had shown the permit, sleeping on the Capitol steps would not have been allowed. There is no such flexibility built into the agreement.

“The permit was not approved for overnight,” said Normal Bean.

“We were directly told by Shane the permit was overnight and he continued to tell us this right up to when the cops showed up to arrest us. He was nowhere to be found at that time.”

Melody Reid, of Melody’s Knockouts and 420 Custom Design said, “I signed up for a permitted event at the park, with electricity. We were told back in April, and again a few days before the event, that we would not have to take our full booths down the first night, and everything would be in the park so we would be able to keep an eye on it from our motorhome.”

“I sent the girls that were helping me back to the hotel for the night, then all of the sudden the State Police came to our booth and told us ‘everything needs to be gone immediately’.

“Then they said, ‘if anybody smoked cannabis today, you have 24 hours before you’re considered sober, so if you get in your car you will be arrested for a DUI.’ While we were taking everything thing down we saw Ryan get arrested.”

“Shane said it was okay to be on the steps overnight. This lie of his jeopardized all of our civil liberties. There are a lot of good people’s integrity at stake,” said Dan Martin.

“After the cop incident, I drove 2.5 hours home, leaving behind a 25k generator that I rented for the remainder of the event. I put out hundreds of dollars, and potentially hundreds more due to the unexpected shut down.”

“I worked all year for this event, and it turned out to be the most unorganized event ever. It was also the first time I was ever harassed by police at an event,” Melody Reid said.

“This was going to be an off the hook event for us. I was going to be live streaming for Renegade radio and pirate Gypsy radio. It was a fantastic line up, but it was a big letdown,” said Tori Vickie Wright.

“I was told I could leave my booth for the night and traveled over an hour home, then my property was confiscated while I was gone. I got a midnight phone call from a state trooper, to collect my things at 5 am, or lose them.”

“Great harm to my business and slander of my name solely caused by the false information created and declared by the State Police,” said Lemco.

Captain Fox responded that “From all the OSP personnel that I have talked to, they didn’t feel that it was confrontational at all – more of a misunderstanding and lack of preparation on the organizers side.”

“I have a difficult time getting angry at the officers for doing their job when it was the event promoter who put all of us in an unfortunate situation,” Portia said.

This cautionary tale may prevent such situations in the future. Events need to be handled as business, not on a wish and a prayer. If people were damaged, the organizer is liable to vendors and partners. The community at large is in need of hard facts and viable information. Anything less is a degradation to the efforts of so many, past and present.

“We were bamboozled by the organizer. All the vendors and sponsors need to be reimbursed for this, completely. This is our culture, our community. This is not who we are,” said Dan Martin.

“What sucks is this event could have been so much better, if he would have said what kind of help he needed. It was to be an educational event, and you know who needs that education. Those cops, the city members, and the state,” Ryan Skidmore said.

“As the promoter, you should be the first to arrive and the last to leave making sure everything and everyone is taken care of,” said Portia Lee. “If Shane really wants to be the 'Voice of the People' he might want to actually care about the people.”

The 2018 Cannabiz Convention in Salem was a missed opportunity on so many levels.

SEE ALSO: Lemco's 2015 Salem Fest

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