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Hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa touts marijuana use at Pittsburgh Thrival Innovation event

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, 10:45 p.m.
Wiz Khalifa salutes the crowd during Thrival Innovation in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Sept. 28, 2017
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Wiz Khalifa salutes the crowd during Thrival Innovation in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Sept. 28, 2017

Wiz Khalifa doesn't think he can change the mindset of people who view marijuana as harmful or evil.

He also doesn't really care.

“If you think it's a bad thing, you're just going to think it's bad,” he told a Pittsburgh crowd during a discussion about marijuana, medical cannabis and technology Thursday evening. “Until you fully experience it, or someone around you benefits off of it … I feel like for the people who are open to it, when they do they change their mind, it's always significant.”

The hip-hop megastar from Pittsburgh's Taylor Allderdice High School calmly cradled a microphone inside a packed lower level at Carnegie Music Hall of Oakland during Thrival Innovation's marquee event.

A few people snapped photos and recorded with their phones, but most sat enraptured as Khalifa, slouched in a chair on stage, advocated the benefits of medical and recreational marijuana.

His appearance during a fireside-style chat with cannabis investor Marc Ruxin and John Battelle, founding editor of WIRED magazine, was a precursor to the two-day Thrival music festival at Carrie Furnace. He performs Saturday night.

Khalifa traded in his “Legalize It” T-shirt, that he wore the previous night while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Pirates game, for an unbuttoned, short-sleeve dress shirt. He kept his sunglasses on as he preached pot and Pittsburgh.

“I see it being like alcohol or something that's more acceptable and accessible for the people,” he said of marijuana. “There's edibles, there's oils, there's vapes and all of that different stuff.

“Just with the way technology changes, peoples' minds change on how we are actually using it. I think that's really going to revolutionize it and make it stand out.”

Khalifa owns the marijuana strain “Khalifa Kush,” which is sold in three states.

“Being that I smoke as much as I do or use as much cannabis as I do, I wanted people to have an experience that was like mine,” he said. “And I was really passionate about bringing a high quality product that was accessible to everybody.”

Battelle said that it was like a clothing line, “except it's weed,” prompting a giggle out of Khalifa.

He also talked about his acting coach who he said is using CBDs, or cannabidiol, to recover from injuries sustained in a car accident. CBDs, derived from cannabis, are used for pain relief in many states where medical marijuana is legal.

“She said she wouldn't be able to make it through her days if it wasn't for CBDs,” he said. “It helps a lot of with pain and people put it in creams so you're not necessarily getting stoned off of it, but you're still getting all of the benefits from it.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana last year and the state's program is expected to be operational by next May.

“I've seen a lot of people who before might have been scared of it or might of run away from it. But now they are in situations when they are in need of it and it really helps them,” for pain relief, Khalifa said.

He said he's impressed with Pittsburgh's resurgence and growing reputation as a hotbed for technology, cool neighborhoods and jobs.

“I've noticed the change in the city and I love it,” he said. “There's way more hope for younger people here, the fact that have options to do things that will catapult them into the future.

“We're sitting here talking about weed in Pittsburgh, which is crazy.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Bencschmitt.

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