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‘Rough and tumble show biz epic’

Rufus Wainwright on his new ‘best of’ release, tour and inspirations

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Rufus Wainwright, gay news, music, Washington Blade
Rufus Wainwright, gay news, music, Washington Blade

Rufus Wainwright (Photo by Sean James; courtesy Slate PR)

‘The Best of Rufus Wainwright’

With Lucy Wainwright Roche

Lincoln Theatre

1215 U St. N.W.

Wednesday at 7 p.m.

$45

rufuswainwright.com

ticketfly.com

Rufus Wainwright took a few minutes during a tour stop in Warsaw a few weeks ago to talk to us by phone about his show next week in Washington.

Touring behind two projects that were released last month — hits package “Vibrate” and the Blu-ray video “Rufus Wainwright: Live From the Artists Den” — Wainwright, 40, says he’s at a logical career mid-point that inspired revisiting his catalogue.

WASHINGTON BLADE: Are the audiences significantly different in Europe versus the U.S.?

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: It really varies. I did shows in Latvia and Lithuania recently and you could have been talking about the East Coast and then the West Coast in terms of differences and it’s fascinating how it’s real peaks and valleys on this continent. It’s a little daunting. Occasionally you get some kind of icy folks, but mostly they’re very happy I’m here.

 

BLADE: The Artists Den show was recorded in May 2012 but just released last month for purchase. Did you always plan it as a home video release?

WAINWRIGHT: I just thought it would be a TV special and then we did a good job on it, so it made sense to keep the ball rolling. I’ve always concentrated really hard on my live performance and making sure that the pinnacle of my career is really what you see on stage in front of you when you’re in the room. I put a lot of faith in my live work, so it’s good to release it.

 

BLADE: So this is an entirely different show from the Artists Den show?

WAINWRIGHT: Oh yes, very different. Now I’m mostly promoting the “Vibrate” CD, the best-of CD, so I’m just doing a lot of songs from the expanse of my career and even a couple of new ones to whet people’s appetite. But it’s a much more intimate show, just one on one. Or hopefully one on a thousand, at least. But yeah, you’re hitting the core of the matter when you come see this new show in the spring.

 

BLADE: It’s a solo show? No band?

WAINWRIGHT? Just me and either piano or guitar.

 

BLADE: You have a strong body of work built over many years. What’s your philosophy of set list construction? To what degree is it informed by what you’re promoting at any given time?

WAINWRIGHT: Well there’s a few projects now so it’s definitely dictated to some degree by what I’m trying to sell. There’s lots of good stuff to talk about. For instance, I’m raising money now to record my opera “Prima Donna” (pledgemusic.com/projects/primadonna) which will be my next album, but I also sing some of my mother’s material (the late Kate McGarrigle) to promote some of her work, because I feel she was a great genius. And there’s also just the fun of making music.

 

BLADE: About how long do you play on average?

WAINWRIGHT: About 90 minutes.

 

Rufus Wainwright, gay news, music, Washington Blade

Rufus Wainwright (Photo by Sean James; courtesy Slate PR)

BLADE: In addition to the aforementioned projects, you also had a lavish box set out a couple years ago. Are you curating your body of work in a sense?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I have a lot of it and I hit 40 so I have 40 years left to fill up in terms of my career so yeah, I’ve definitely spent the last five years going over what’s happened and putting it in its rightful place. I’ve also been writing another opera, “Hadrian,” and now I’m working a lot on some films for Hollywood and putting together some other tracks for another pop record but we’re definitely at the middle point right now. The best is yet to come.

 

BLADE: It’s obvious, though, that you put some care and thought into these things. Fans can always tell when they’re just slapped together by the label. Yours clearly were not.

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I have a lot of supportive and very intellectual people who helped me do that along the way. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys was influential and instrumental I should say in putting together the list of songs for “Vibrate.” And, you know, I had such a great band for the Artists Den recording. You know, you’ve got to have good people around you.

 

BLADE: What was it like singing with Joni Mitchell at her birthday tribute last year?

WAINWRIGHT: Oh, that was wild. Really amazing. I can’t say that I was the biggest Joni Mitchell fan growing up. Not so much because I didn’t like her music but my mother was very jealous of Joni Mitchell. My mother was a very well known Canadian songwriter as well, so we weren’t allowed to listen to much Joni Mitchell in the house. So I wasn’t really that familiar. So it was really an amazing education and kind of a baptism by fire and the last lesson was singing with her on stage. It was a lot of fun.

 

BLADE: Did you get to interact much with her aside from what we saw on stage?

WAINWRIGHT: Oh yeah, a lot. We hung out a lot. I went to her house a few times because my husband (Jorn Weisbrodt) runs the festival, we had to really work with her on everything so we spent a lot of time together, Joni and I. It was a great honor.

 

BLADE: In interviews, she’s never been one to mince words. Is that how she is when the camera’s not rolling too?

WAINWRIGHT: Oh yeah, there’s no filter there whatsoever. You know, she’s lived in her own universe for so many years, there’s no way to really encapsulate and explain what she is. She’s kind of transcended what it is to be real.

 

BLADE: With the operas, which came first — the concepts or the commissions?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I’ve always wanted to write operas, that desire was always there, but you really cannot write an opera in a vacuum. You need a commission to really hold on to because it’s such a laborious and intense process so yes, thankfully, I did receive one commission and now I’ve received another so I’m continuing that journey. But yeah, you can’t really write an opera on the side. It doesn’t work that way.

 

BLADE: Your vocals manage to be both full voiced and big, yet also have a world weariness to them. How do you do that?

WAINWRIGHT: I think part of it is due to my love of opera. They have to project in these huge halls so I try to kind of emulate that. But growing up, even before I became a big opera fan, my other influences were people like Judy Garland and Al Jolson, these, you know, much older kind of vaudevillian performers who, again, had to project. I think that kind of thing always attracted me more than, I don’t know, some kind of high quality recording. I was more into the kind of rough-and-tumble show biz epic. My voice is a very unusual and mystifying monster to me. I mean, I love my voice and I’m indebted to it eternally, but on the other hand, it puts me through hell sometimes trying to figure out what it is, where it’s going to go and what it needs. It has a life of its own. I’m just dragged around.

 

BLADE: You’ve said your last studio album (2012’s “Out of the Game”) with (producer) Mark Ronson was the most pop album you’d ever made. Do you think about pop and commercial appeal when you’re writing?

WAINWRIGHT: When I talk to my accountant I do (laughs).

 

BLADE: But do you with the muses as well?

WAINWRIGHT: A little bit. I know a lot of people who are very successful in the industry in terms of pop music. You know, Elton John or Neil Tennant. People who’ve had real hits. Norah Jones. So it’s around me and I see it happen and I wonder, you know, why not me? It’s always important to have a dangling carrot in front of you in the arts. You always have something you haven’t quite attained yet, so I’m thankful for this as an impetus.

 

BLADE: Is your stuff too smart perhaps for the masses?

WAINWRIGHT: I think that might be an issue. When I sing, it tends to grab your attention fully. I’m not very good background music. It seems like most pop music today is made to be played in restaurants really.

 

Rufus Wainwright, gay news, music, Washington Blade

Rufus Wainwright (Photo by Sean James; courtesy Slate PR)

BLADE: How gay is your fan base would you say?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, that’s an interesting question. I’ve never felt supported by my own kind. I think there are a lot of great gay music fans out there and definitely a strong nugget of wonderful queers who get it, but I’d say like the majority kind of mainstream gay sensibility really kind of runs countercurrent to what I’ve been trying to put forth. I’ve never felt that embraced by gay culture, especially by gay men. But that’s also part of my aesthetic. If I felt accepted by them, I’d be far too happy. (laughs)

 

BLADE: Do Jorn and (3-year-old daughter) Viva travel with you?

WAINWRIGHT: Jorn sometimes but he’s busy with his festival. We kind of run into each other along the way. My daughter lives with her mother (Leonard Cohen’s daugher, Lorca) in Los Angeles so I see her once a month or so.

 

BLADE: Did you see the Judy tribute at the Oscars?

WAINWRIGHT: No, I didn’t. What was it? Was Liza in it?

 

BLADE: Well she and Lorna and Joey were there but it was clips from “Wizard of Oz” and Idina Menzel sang. Do you know Liza well?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I know Lorna a lot better. I don’t think anybody really knows Liza that well.

 

BLADE: You do so much work aside from the traditional writing/recording/touring cycle of a typical recording artist. Do you think you would have been doing as many other things had you been doing all this, say, a generation before?

WAINWRIGHT: I think if all of this had been happening even 15 years earlier, it would have been a whole other story. Financially, well, you know, there was just more of a kind of market and structure in the record business to support developing artists. I don’t think the deals were particularly good, but you were nonetheless kind of strung along more and there were more platforms to really express yourself whether it was TV or the radio. There was more to do. But I’m happy. I don’t know — I probably would have branched out anyway, now that I think about it. I tend to be pretty slippery.

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Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop

Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen

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Melissa Etheridge brings her ‘One Way Out Tour’ to the D.C. region next week with a show at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

Melissa Etheridge
‘One Way Out Tour’
Tuesday, April 26
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Rd.
Tysons, VA
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55
ticketmaster.com
capitalonehall.com
melissaetheridge.com

We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26. 

It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.

Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded. 

BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?

ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”

BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.

BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.

BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?

ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.

BLADE: When did you start back on the road?

ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.

BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”

BLADE: Do you talk to her often?

ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy. 

BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun. 

BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?

ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.

BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?

ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her. 

BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys?  Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?

ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.

BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it? 

ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else. 

BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition? 

ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved. 

BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you? 

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.

Melissa Etheridge says slowing down wasn’t an option for her when the pandemic hit. She’s glad to be back on the road now, she says. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?  

ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way. 

BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays? 

ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best. 

BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.

BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.

BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey. 

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)
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New Cranes sommelier brings spirit to wine and sake program

Stewart-Woodruff curates eclectic list for Michelin-starred restaurant

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‘I bring my whole self to work,’ says Eric Stewart-Woodruff. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Outfitted in a blue damask dinner jacket with satin lapels and an energetic smile, Eric Stewart-Woodruff carves an impressive figure when chatting about his favorite vintages. Stewart-Woodruff, who’s gay, is the new sommelier at Michelin-starred Cranes in Penn Quarter.

Stewart-Woodruff curates an eclectic wine – and sake – program focusing on pairings with celebrated Chef Pepe Moncayo’s innovative, global flavors. Cranes, which explores intersections of Spanish and Japanese cuisine, opened just before the pandemic, and received a coveted Michelin star in 2021.

Stewart-Woodruff did not start off in the wine industry. In fact, he does not have any formal training in wine. Instead, after a career as a professional photographer, he pivoted to the restaurant industry, where he developed his love of wine. While working for a distributor, he connected with D.C.’s own District Winery. This opportunity allowed him to express his truest self, as a lead tour guide, wine ambassador and sommelier. He credits his identity and personality as his reason for thriving.

“I bring my whole self to work,” he says, “offering a level of humanity and approachability.” 

After the pandemic temporarily shuttered District Winery, Stewart-Woodruff found himself interviewing at Cranes, enamored with Moncayo’s “creative vision,” he says – and was sold. He began in late summer of 2021.

Through his work in hospitality, Stewart-Woodruff notes that the industry can be hetero-male dominated. He has been able to break through by not holding back on his identity.

“I tend to play with expectations of what a sommelier may look or act like,” he says. “I move away from what one may stereotypically look like, but still present like one.”

For him, that means talking about wine and wine education “as if it were gossip,” he says. “I like to view wine like we are at brunch. Wine has personality, it’s performative, and it has stereotypes.” He is seeking to break molds of specific likes and dislikes, exploring the depth that wine has to offer, in the context of the Spanish-Japanese Cranes menu. In fact, he says, Moncayo is supportive of his innovative, certification-less angle. “I become more relatable,” he says.

He also presents original events. He paired with local guest sommelier Andrew Stover (also a gay man) on Tuesday, March 29 for a springtime showcase of specialty rosé wines paired with Moncayo’s dishes. The duo poured tastes of specialty, small-batch wines from Brazil, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, and Maryland.

Leaning into the innovative spirit, the wine-by-glass list is not split by color. Instead, it is divided into evocative categories. For example, both a chardonnay and a pinot noir fall into the “Elegant, round, and mellow” category.

As a Spanish-Japanese restaurant, Cranes not only possesses an extensive wine cellar, but has consistently expanded its sake program. Sakes by the glass are split into the same exact categories. The very same “Elegant, round, and mellow” list includes Ginjo Nama Genshu and junmai daiginjo.

Stewart-Woodruff explains that wine and sake should be attended to similarly. “Sake is something you can think about like a beer in terms of production but treat like a wine,” he says. Sake is a fermented polished-rice beverage, dating back more than two millennia in Japan.

“Sake has aromatics, texture, body, and finish.” He takes pride in discussing customers’ palate preferences, and turning them onto a specific sake, for their qualities of earthiness, acidity, or others.

“Many people don’t experience sake outside of college or bars. Now, I can be a sommelier for sake, and for the marriage of Eastern and Western cuisine and beverage.” He expresses excitement at being innovative in his sake beverage pairings, occupying a niche space. When discussing both wine and sake, he aims to bring an artistic flair and tour-guide enthusiasm to the table.

Woodruff credits his identity and background for his success. He aims to bring a level of humanity and approachability to what has been a formal, stuffy area. He has high ambitions to portray sake as sophisticated as wine in the customer’s mind, “but it pairs well with Moncayo’s conceptually ambitious menu,” he says.

“Wine and sake are as eclectic as humanity. I want people to accept experiencing wine like the world has accepted me.”

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Legalization trend continues as Nat’l Cannabis Festival kicks off

D.C.’s 420 Week runs April 16-24

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National Cannabis Festival (Photo by Doug Van Sant; courtesy NCF)

The sixth annual National Cannabis Festival kicks off in D.C. on April 16 as the nation continues to see advances in legalizing cannabis, particularly for medical uses. 

Just this week, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed HB 933 and SB 671, to provide numerous operational improvements to the state’s medical cannabis program, including eliminating the requirement that patients register with the Board of Pharmacy after receiving their written certification from a registered practitioner. 

“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy,” Pedini added.

There are more than 47,000 program registrants, with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval. 

The new laws will take effect July 1. Until that time, patients will still be required to register with the Board of Pharmacy in order to shop at one of the state’s ten operational dispensaries. After July 1, patients who would like to receive a physical card will still have the option to request one by registering with the Board of Pharmacy.

The changes in Virginia law reflect growing support nationwide for reforming marijuana laws. Most Americans favor the enactment of a broad array of legal reforms specific to marijuana policy, according to new nationwide polling data provided by YouGov.com.

Specifically, six-in-10 Americans say that “marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Majorities of Democrats (72 percent) and independents (60 percent) back legalization, while most Republicans (46 percent) do not.

Last week, members of the United States House of Representatives voted 220 to 204 in favor of The MORE Act, which removes marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act thereby allowing states to legalize cannabis markets free from federal interference. Most Democrats (217) voted for the bill while all but three Republicans voted against it.

A majority of Americans also support amending federal law so that banks and other financial institutions can explicitly partner with state-licensed marijuana businesses. Support for the policy change is strongest among Democrats (66 percent) and weakest among Republicans (38 percent).

Under existing federal law, financial institutions are discouraged from partnering with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to the most recent financial information provided by the US Treasury Department, only about ten percent of all banks and only about four percent of all credit unions provide services to licensed cannabis-related businesses.

House members have voted on six separate occasions to pass federal legislation (The SAFE Banking Act) to reform this policy, but Senators have never taken any action to advance it in the Upper Chamber. Most recently, House members voted in February to include SAFE Banking provisions in HR 4521: the America COMPETES Act. Senators failed to include similar language in their version of the bill. (Courtesy NORML)

420 Week arrives in D.C.

D.C. is gearing up for a blazing 420 Week, featuring several days of exciting panels, art and community-building events and parties culminating in the National Cannabis Festival on April 23, featuring Wiz Khalifa, Lettuce, Ghostface Killah, Backyard Band, DuPont Brass, Shamans of Sound, Cramer, and more. 

This year, the sixth annual National Cannabis Festival, which celebrates progress on cannabis legalization, is expanding to a full weekend of epic cannabis-related events, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit April 22 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and the National Cannabis Championship, presented by Gentleman Toker and slated for April 24 at Echostage with Slick Rick. The weekend is the capstone of 420 Week, hosted by the National Cannabis Festival organizers in partnership with the Eaton Hotel and DC Brau. The week kicks off on Saturday, April 16, with movie screenings, evening parties, a beer launch and more. Read on for the week’s highlights, courtesy of Festival organizers:
 

420 Week

Saturday, April 16 – Sunday, April 24 

Eaton Hotel + DC Brau

From the Hemp and Hops Panel and launch of NCF Legalize It! Lager at DC Brau (3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE) on April 16 to the 4/20 Kickback Party featuring Khalifa Kush and panel with artists discussing cannabis’s role in their practice at the Eaton Hotel (1201 K St, NW), 420 Week promises something for everyone with an interest in cannabis culture. Take a tour with Luckie Chucky tours, participate in a “Plantwave Soundbath” and more. Nearly all events are free; RSVP required. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com for details. 
 

National Cannabis Policy Summit

Friday, April 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Join a who’s who of activists, industry pioneers, government leaders, journalists and more for an electric and illuminating day looking at the era’s most pressing cannabis policy challenges and opportunities. U.S. Senate candidate and Civil Rights activist Gary Chambers; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Portland Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson; Aamra Ahmad, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and many others will be on hand to discuss environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, banking legislation, decriminalization and more. Afterward, stay for a reception sponsored by Weedmaps. All events are free; registration is strongly recommended. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/ncf-policy-summit for details. 
      

National Cannabis Festival

Saturday, April 23, 12 p.m. 

RFK Festival Grounds

2400 East Capitol St., NE, Lot 8

 The highlight of 420 Week events is the East Coast’s largest ticketed cannabis gathering, which returns to Washington’s RFK Campus with performances from Wiz Khalifa Lettuce, Ghostface Killah and many others. Also on tap: a wide range of exhibitors, five pavilions on topics from wellness to agriculture to education, and a brand-new culinary pavilion featuring top chefs from Maydan, Maketto, Moon Rabbit, as well as the Munchies Zone, with 75 of the region’s most popular food trucks including Peruvian Brothers, Jerk at Nite, Reba’s Funnel Cakes and more. (Note: No THC infused foods are permitted to be sold or sampled at NCF; festival-goers must be 21 and up.) Tickets range from $75-$375 for one or two-day admission to the festival and National Cannabis Championship. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets
 

National Cannabis Championship Presented by Gentleman Toker

Sunday, April 24, 12 p.m.

2135 Queens Chapel Rd., NE

Slick Rick and DJ Footwerk are giving festival-goers a sendoff to remember on the final day of 420 Week and the festival weekend, at the National Cannabis Championship at Echostage, new this year. Presented by Gentleman Toker, this awards show and bash celebrates the incredible cannabis cultivation taking place in the Washington area and across the Mid-Atlantic. Expect exhibitors, comedy, munchies, drinks and a chance to chill with some of the biggest names and brands in cannabis cultivation. Tickets are $55. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets.

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