Back when I was an Austin resident from 1994-1996, SXSW celebrated the weirdness of Austin. Local bands played up and down 6th St., hoping for national recognition from industry types who descended on the Texas capitol every March. Twenty-four years later, it’s grown into a 10-day celebration of film, music, technology and progressive thought.

Texas is flirting with medical cannabis and attracting some young, vibrant political figures that want to bring legalization to the Lone Star State. SXSW is the perfect vehicle for furthering this goal. The thousands of attendees are smart and not afraid of taking risks (although most of their risks focus on coding and instrumental harmonies). At the same time, the world of sensory enhancement is one they generally embrace.

There were several chances to engage in cannabis discussions and education at SXSW 2018. I participated in a panel on professional sports with Jim McAlpine, founder of the 420 Games, and Eben Britton, a former NFL player who formed Athletes for Care, We all advocated for the use of cannabis as a substitute for the prescription drugs that athletes are fed in the name of winning.

Other canna-panels featured Ardent Cannabis’ Shanel Lindsay, Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Kaplan, futurist Faith Popcorn and Morgan Paxhia from Poseidon Asset Management. There was a “clean cannabis” meet-up, a talk about marijuana as the next superfood and the Grasslands fundraiser for Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s running against Sen. Ted Cruz for his Senate seat, hosted by Ricardo Baca. The world premiere of Weed the People—directed by Abby Epstein, produced by Ricki Lake and featuring this cannabis blogger—was also a highlight.

Yes, cannabis was definitely a part of SXSW, but this is only the beginning. Prohibition still has a hold on states like Texas, and as fabulous as it is to imagine the festival including cannabis lounges and edible-making demonstrations, that will only happen if we keep pushing and don’t become complacent in the face of legal victories and public support.

This was my first SXSW experience, and there’s no way it will be my last.

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About Amanda Reiman

VP of community relations at Flow Kana in Northern California and former manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance

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