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‘Queer Eye’s’ Karamo Brown on wedding, new memoir and life advice

Fab Five favorite in Washington for March 6 event at Sixth and I Synagogue

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Karamo Brown, gay news, Washington Blade
Karamo Brown of ‘Queer Eye’ fame says now is the right time for a memoir because he’s learned so much about life. (Photo by Alex Rhoades)

Karamo Brown in Conversation with Sam Sanders

Wednesday, March 6

7 p.m. 

Sixth and I Synagogue 

$40-55

 sixthandi.org.

Karamo Brown has become known as a gay, male version of Oprah as the resident culture expert of the Netflix reboot “Queer Eye.” 

Over the show’s past two seasons, Brown, who has a background in psychotherapy and social work, has offered life advice and shared a different perspective in a way that seems to profoundly change the “heroes” of each episode. Before he landed “Queer Eye,” he also unexpectedly made history as the first out gay black man on reality television during his stint on “The Real World: Philadelphia.”

However, Brown’s life view wasn’t always so grounded. In his memoir, “My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope” (out March 5), the 38-year-old chronicles how he came from a broken place of drug addiction and other traumas and was able to build himself into the advice guru he is today. He also brings light to rarely talked about topics such as how he discovered he was a father when his son was 10 years old. Now, Brown has full custody of his son and his son’s brother and is engaged to his fiancé, director Ian Jordan. 

Brown spoke with the Blade from another speaking engagement in Raleigh, N.C., about his memoir, new episodes of “Queer Eye” and an update on the stress of wedding planning. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Let’s take it back to when you were on “The Real World: Philadelphia.” You were the first out gay black man on reality TV in the U.S. When that happened were you trying to be a pioneer? Did you find out before the show? 

KARAMO BROWN: I found out after the fact. I was not even that strategic to say, at that age, “You know what I’m going to go on here and do something that’s never been done.” It wasn’t even that. I was like, “How can I go in this house and have a good time and party and have fun.” There was no thought in my mind about “Am I the first?” Once I came off the show and that was immediately told to me by MTV and that narrative started getting pushed, I immediately started to feel the pressure as people wrote to me and said, “Oh my god I haven’t seen anyone that looked like me. Thank you,” and I was like, “Wow, there’s a whole lot of eyes on me right now and if I don’t do what’s right I’m not screwing up myself I’m screwing up others.” And that was difficult but also pretty amazing because I opened up a door, just a little bit enough, so that other people could run through and do what they do. 

BLADE: How did the audition come about to be a “culture expert” on “Queer Eye”?

BROWN: Being in bed I hear Carson Kressley and Andy Cohen talking about the reboot. I got on the phone with my agent and said, “I have to be a part of this,” and he told me it was done. Luckily, he pushed for me to get in because the casting was already finished and they took a chance on me. But once I got in there I realized that culture couldn’t be what everyone else had seen it be the first go around where it was about Broadway tickets and art museums. Having training as a psychotherapist and a social worker, I was like, “Someone has to fix the hearts and minds.” Change is great, it is phenomenal, but if you only have outward change and no inward change then what happened?” You just go back to what you did before because you haven’t acknowledged the behavior. So when I think about culture, I think about the shared attitude and values that make people do the things they do. That’s how I approach culture.

BLADE: How is the fame circuit now different than it was when you did “Real World”?

BROWN: Oh my gosh, it’s great now. The first time around people were thinking, “Come here and come fight” and now people come to me and they’re like, “Please help me remove the drama from my life.” That is a major shift. Before, they wanted to be in the drama and now they’re like, “Please remove the drama from my life. I want to be happy with myself and with my boyfriend and my girlfriend and my family.” They’re like, “Help me understand how I can be drama free” and I think that’s what the biggest shift is. 

BLADE: You come off as though you have such a wealth of knowledge and life advice. Were you always this way?

BROWN: No. I wish that could say that I came out of the womb knowing the answer to every question but it’s not true. I went through a lot of hard times dealing with abuse, domestic violence, drugs, colorism, religion. I think what makes me so happy about my book is that I’m showing people that even in my darkest moments, I try to find what the lesson was in it so I can use that as a springboard to get toward my greater self. I think that’s hard to do for most people because we don’t have the language or the tools. In my book, I try to show people that you can find the tools, here’s the language, here’s how you do it. So who I am today is not who I was even on “The Real World.” And I’m glad because I was able to grow through and heal from all the traumatic things that have happened to me and still be able to do that work. That’s what I show people that they can do as well in my book. 

BLADE: The third season of “Queer Eye” returns in March. The show has become known for the memorable stories of people like Tom and Skyler. Can you give me a preview of any memorable stories coming up in the next season?

BROWN: They won’t let me tell you about the heroes but I will tell you this. For my category, I am most proud. Season one I was embarrassed for the fact that I didn’t fight for what the culture category was, being more about fixing the inside. I was doing that work but I didn’t have a clear conversation with executives. Even though they weren’t fighting against me, it was my own internal battle. Season two you saw me be more, “Oh he’s fixing the inside. Oh, he’s the mental health expert.” But season three, it comes full forward. If you loved the laughing and the crying, we do it so much. We have real conversations, really deep, real growth for these individuals. It’s more diverse. I think it’s almost half and half men and women, which is great. So more diverse in race. I think it’s great when people are able to say, ‘Wow, great I see myself” and a large part of that is what I’m doing and I’m really proud of that. My brothers and I when we first came into this a year ago, the Fab Five, we didn’t know each other. We were so worried. Someone said to us, “OK, we’re going to put you on a treadmill and you can’t crawl you have to run full speed.” And at first we were like, “Oh can we do it?” and we locked hands and we have done it. I’m so proud of us.

BLADE: You guys recently went to Japan to film “Queer Eye.” How was filming there different than filming in the U.S.?

BROWN: Us being in Tokyo was something the network wanted us to do because they wanted what we do to really translate internationally. Us going into a country with people who don’t speak the same language. It’s funny because in my book you see I talk about how emotions are universal and we all have them. Somehow we feel disconnected yet every single person whether you’re in Tokyo or Texas experiences the same thing. That experience lets me know, especially in my category, that you don’t really need words to understand what someone is going through. You can help them to realize that their emotions are the words. I can’t wait for people to see those. The Tokyo episodes aren’t a full season it’s just a special season that will be coming out who knows when. But we’re all excited about it. 

BLADE: Why did you decide that now was the time in your life to come out with a memoir?

BROWN: Because I’ve grown a lot. I’ve had a lot of life experience. I’ve also been trained as a psychotherapist and social worker, I know how to articulate what I’m feeling in a way that’s digestible and in a way the people can relate to it and apply to their own lives. This is just me telling infinite stories of how I’ve grown so that people can do the same with clear insights. I’m not saying my journey of growth is done but I’ve had enough life experience that I’m like, “Let’s share this with someone else.” I’m very transparent in the book. 

BLADE: You’re very open about fatherhood and how you found out you were a father. Why was that such an important story to share for you?

BROWN: You don’t really hear stories about single, black fathers stepping up, taking full custody of their children and still having a supportive relationship with the child’s mother. The narrative we get told in the media is that black fathers and black mothers don’t have a good relationship and everybody is fighting and, “You’re my baby mama” and whatever BS that gets put out there. That’s not the case for me. I am a black man raising two black boys on my own. Secondly, you never hear the story of gay, black men who are saying, “I can raise my children and there’s not any issues because of my sexuality, and yes, me and my child’s mother are going to be able to co-parent.” I have a very untraditional trajectory toward fatherhood. Though it’s not traditional it’s still the same in so many ways. I’ve worked with fathers and mothers across the country and we always are like, “We’re experiencing the same thing.” So although I got my son when he was a little bit older I still experience what it’s like to be a parent. I talk about that in the book because first of all look at the narrative that you’re hearing about people who look like you but secondly, stories are universal and here are some tips for you to understand how to talk to your kids, how to have better conversations with them and how to manage what you’re feeling as a parent. 

BLADE: You give out so much advice to other people but what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

BROWN: Don’t be afraid of going slowly only of standing still. Because sometimes we get stuck in our lives doing something and we’re like, “I’m not going to be happy but I’m going to stay here.” But if you take one small step every day toward what you truly want you’ll make it. 

BLADE: You recently got engaged. How is wedding planning going?

BROWN: Wedding planning is going great for me. My fiancé not so much because he has full anxiety of it. This is a special day. I was the little boy who dreamed of my wedding and I’m not ashamed to say that. I want little boys to know around the world they can dream of their wedding day too. I don’t think it’s fair that we say girls should dream about their weddings but men can’t. Especially in heterosexual relationships. We tell girls, “Oh you should want a wedding” but you don’t tell the boys the same? What kind of screwed-up mixed narrative is that you’re sending? Marriage is not for everyone but it is for me. I have been planning an extravaganza. When I was at a Vanity Fair party, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra were there and I so badly wanted to go up them and be like, “I’m rivaling your wedding.” Of course, they have more money than me so theirs is always going to be more fabulous. But in my mind I’m coming close to what they created. It’s giving my partner anxiety but luckily, it’s going well for me. 

Karamo Brown speaks at the 2018 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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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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