Behind The Scenes At First High Hopes Summit With B-Real, Chang Weisberg And More – Forbes
The Millennium Biltmore in Downtown L.A. is one of the most storied hotels in North America. The elegant hotel hosted the Academy Awards in 1939. Walk through the halls and you will see black and white photos from the 1939 ceremony.
When the 1960 Democratic National Convention was held there, eventual nominee John F. Kennedy was reportedly stationed with his team in the then Music Room (now the lobby). After Ronald Reagan won the Governor’s seat in California he held his victory party there.
The hotel has housed presidents, royalty, celebrities and icons. And on a recent Tuesday night in the presidential suite several CEOs and executives in the cannabis industry convened for a private dinner put on by Chang Weisberg and his team as part of the first annual High Hopes summit.
The three-day event took over both much of the Biltmore that Monday and Tuesday, following a job fair and free outdoor concert, hosted by Cypress Hill’s B-Real, that Sunday.
Having a cannabis summit in the center of Downtown L.A. was not lost on any of the participants, starting with B-Real.
“You’re right in the center of Downtown and if you would’ve asked anybody 15, 20 years ago, ‘Would this be possible? People would’ve said, ‘It’s something we’re striving to, but it remains to be seen,'” he says.”The work that people have put in through activism, education and actually working towards building products and brands that make up the culture now, it’s still early and it’s thriving and that’s great to see it all happening in Downtown.”
Rapper Supernatural, a longtime associate and friend of Weisberg from his Rock The Bells days, concurs. “
“When I look around, standing in this square of buildings, big cloud in the middle and hip hop banging off, who would’ve thought?” he says. “But the world is growing and changing at a very rapid rate. People are ready for the evolution. Cannabis, we’ve done it in the dark for so long . At the end of the day, it’s time for us to come out and say, ‘Hey, they make equal rights for everything but cannabis users.’ And now it’s starting to open up.”
I spoke with Weisberg about the three-day event, the purpose behind it and how he sees it growing in the future.
Steve Baltin: How did High Hopes come to be?
Chang Weisberg: I had to go through hoops because the city didn’t say come down and smoke weed. They said, come down and get jobs for cannabis, which is great. Of course I knew that a concert crowd would smoke weed and the park was tolerant of it. And that’s about as much as you can get in prohibition right now. Not just Pershing Square, but the Biltmore Hotel taking a chance and working with us to provide basically a safe atmosphere for legal cannabis and to educate. That was a lot of history over a few days and a lot of people really realized that. Over 1200 people registered for the job fair. There were companies that walked away with over 300, 400 resumes. They were all stunned. I’ve done a lot of s**t in my career, but you’re only as good as the last thing you did. So there were some doubts, but there are a lot of believers now. There are a lot of believers in the possibility of what the High Hopes platform will become for legal cannabis and prohibition right now. The people who were in that room don’t get together like that a lot. It’s very competitive and the same way that I tried to bring bands together, there were a lot of companies who came out to support what we were doing that haven’t come out, whether it be the Jungle Boys and Connected, there were just very good vibes in the building.
Baltin: How important was the job fair in making all of this happen?
Weisberg: Not a lot of people were really believing you get a free concert for showing up and giving you my resume or getting my record expunged. You have to go get your record expunged. They just swipe it off. They don’t let small offenses and things like possession or transportation go away easily. You gotta actually go see an attorney. So we were able to get a lot of people connected there and now they can get jobs and loans for a house. It went full gamut. Forward facing the festival is what we’re kind of built to do and then getting the Summit. All the content that we got, for the next six months we’re gonna be dropping some knowledge. Those were probably some of the best panels. All our honorees and the conversations all very, very intriguing stuff I know now will live on our socials and through the radio station and on You Tube. It will be an interesting challenge to see where we’re at next year and what will those topics be and what that story will be. A lot is gonna happen. It’s on a very slippery slope right now.
Baltin: Where do you go in the future with High Hopes?
Weisberg: I’m gonna very much keep a B-to-B event B-to-B and very low key. It’s the music that can grow and within one square mile there are four venues for us to grow into, so I’d like to do something at L.A. City Center. They got a movie theater there. I think it’s about curating more micro events for next year and maybe even events leading up to and then maybe after. So it’s not necessarily getting bigger. I just think it’s curating it into different spaces and there are other venues, And it’s about growing with the Biltmore Hotel and Pershing Square to continue to work. There’s no guarantee L.A. will issue licenses or that those venues will deal with licenses. It’s really weird. It’s a weird time for legal cannabis events. I think that was a big deal because a lot of people feel that you’d have to have a license to have a great cannabis event and obviously you don’t. You don’t have to have a license to do a job fair or get people to get their records expunged. You can have a concert and still not be able to buy a joint. To me that’s when we won. You could smoke a joint at Smoke Out, you always could. Legally you had consumption areas or even just as a fan in what I call California concert etiquette. That’s always speak easy and it worked out as long as you’re not disrespectful, but the day you can walk up to a vendor at one of my shows and we’re able to buy that joint that’ll be a significant step in the right direction in Los Angeles.
Baltin: Talk about bringing so many players in the industry together and why this was B-to-B.
Weisberg: I got a lot of concerns, as do all the people that we got together. And I think that’s why High Hopes is really critical, the fact that we were able to establish the kind of event that we established in Los Angeles speaks volumes and is not the easiest thing to do. It’s not the most profitable, but it is an investment, a really good investment. And I just got all the buy ins from so many players and it was critical that we take that step and put ourselves out there like that and pull it off.
This article originally appeared here in https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebaltin/2019/11/10/behind-the-scenes-at-first-high-hopes-summit-with-b-real-chang-weisberg-and-more/