How Legal Cannabis May Have Put an End to Cannabis Festivals and Events in California

January 1, 2018 was a big date in Californian history. On that day, cannabis officially became legalized in terms of recreational consumption. This decision caused a lot of reactions, as it meant a victory for cannabis culture and activists.

Ever since the seventies, California has been known as the center of the world when it came to cannabis culture. Obviously, they’ve been fighting Amsterdam for this title, but things were going in an upwards direction, especially after Proposition 215 was approved in 1996.

When Proposition 64, related to the legalization of sale and use of cannabis, was approved in 2016, everybody was anxiously waiting for 2018. There was a lot of hope for a boom in terms of cannabis culture. Dispensaries arose, people started becoming more and more interested.

The image of smiling people holding their pop top bottles cast a shadow over something much grimmer. State authorities began a crackdown on cannabis festivities and events. These affected events once made the state a highly sought destination for tourists and everyone who was ever fascinated by cannabis culture. Let’s take a look at how this problem arose and how are the effects felt in the Sunshine State.

Stopped right in their tracks

With the legalization date nearing, many festival organizers hoped for many changes. They wished that their festivals wouldn’t feature just MMJ containers in people’s hands. Instead, they expected masses of people trying out and buying products.

There was also additional excitement because, due to the legalization of recreational cannabis, these events would finally get the licenses. Such a move would end up making them legitimate cultural festivities. However, this turned out to be a nightmare for organizers and promoters.

The state of things before Jan 1, 2018

Before, there was just a little bit of observation from the state. This concerned merely the way cannabis is presented and how enticing is the custom cannabis packaging people are able to buy. There were also loose rules about people being urged to get doctor’s notes before entering the festival.

With recreational legalization coming soon, festival promoters were hoping that they would get alcohol-like permits – that everyone on festival grounds 21 and older can buy and consume cannabis, just like they do with beer.

However, local authorities quickly realized that they had the power to block festivals even from the few locations they are permitted to take place, according to a plethora of new laws. This resulted in one number – 0. That’s the same amount as the number of cannabis festivals held in Southern California during the first 6 months of the year. And for the next 6? The same amount.

Culture takes a hit

Citizens from illegal states don’t find this behavior of the state surprising at all.  The situation here is somewhat different, due to a cultural perspective involved. Southern California is basically a bastion for cannabis culture for decades now.

Having no festivals committed to the plant is devastating to the entire region. Northern California managed to win its right to organize festivals in Sacramento and Santa Rosa, the place of the legendary Emerald Cup.

Due to new laws that require several levels of permits, many of the once amazing festivals, like the Chalice California in Victorville, weren’t able to secure permits in time. How many things did they have to get a permit for exactly?

Marijuana sale, marijuana consumption, attendance of visitors, revenue reception for organizers, amongst many others… The same situation happened with the High Life Music Festival in San Bernardino. Such a development of things caused a pessimist outlook in both industry experts and consumers.

A shrewd blockage system

The issue with the state’s prevention of cannabis-oriented festivities doesn’t just affect cannabis culture and its fans – it’s also bad for the economy. Hotels, restaurants and seemingly all other businesses near these once-great festivals have taken a big hit. Almost every marijuana festival in California draws tens of thousands of visitors. These tourists spend money there – money that goes directly into the state budget. But how does the state of California manage to prevent these festivals from happening?

There aren’t things cases of illegal possession of wholesale cannabis containers or dispensary packaging like before. Nowadays, a crippling approval system is in effect. Every rule is tailor-made to allow delays in approval on the grounds of “a committee being required to assess the organization process and proposal.”

Numerous legal gray areas have seemingly put an end to the excitement concerning marijuana legalization in Cali. One step forward and two steps back seems to be the case in California.

What does the law say?

According to state laws and regulations set by the Department of Food and Agriculture, marijuana consumption and sale during events is only allowed at fairground venues, “specifically marked and permitted by local authorities.” There are 80 fairground venues in the entire state, so there shouldn’t be a problem, right? Not quite.

Many of the state’s fairs are defunct or privately owned. This makes them unfit for use either because of the condition or because of the rejection of the owner. What about cracking open even a medical marijuana bottles in those which aren’t private or owned? Many of the 80 fairs are also unfit because the law dictates that a marijuana-related festival can’t be held within a 600-feet radius of a school.

Legalization or manipulation?

It’s not quite clear why is the average consumer off much worse in a cultural sense. Back in the day (as much as we despise the phrase) all an event needed to be organized was a SINGLE permission from the venue’s owner or manager. And that’s it.

Now? First, you need a special annual license from the state. This just makes you a candidate for approval. Then you must file a request that has to be approved by a special board, which in turn has to be approved by the city of the stated.

There is an ongoing lawsuit aimed at the state, but there are no indications that this will be resolved anytime soon.

Future prospects

With tens of millions of dollars being taken from the state budget and people being stripped of their cultural rights, it does make it seem that state legalization is worthless if there isn’t a federal one. And if you look at the current Attorney General, Mr. Sessions and his “take a few aspirins and tough it out” attitude towards using marijuana as a pain medication, we are far, far away from such a decision.

Although we at Green Rush Packaging support these incentives, the process is long. We partake in activism against those who halt the movement towards righteousness within the state borders. Therefore, we can’ expect changes without consistent effort. Only time will tell.


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