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Leafly’s Guide to Coachella: The Cannabis!

For two glorious weekends—April 13-15 and 20-22—the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will draw hundreds of thousands of ambitious merrimakers to the California desert for a star-packed music fest that happens to be the first Coachella of California’s legal-cannabis era. Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your time at Coachella Fest and in the surrounding Coachella Valley—home to Palm Springs, funky art attractions, and, yes, numerous retail cannabis stores. Today’s focus:

Coachella: The Cannabis!


As mentioned in the first installment of Leafly’s Guide to Coachella, cannabis is officially banned within the confines of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, at the insistence of the event’s anti-cannabis promotor AEG.

Get yourself off the restricted grounds of Coachella Fest and out into the general Coachella Valley, where numerous legal cannabis adventures await you.

However, the Coachella Festival is located in the Coachella Valley, which is located in the state of California, which on November 8, 2017 voted to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, which officially went on sale in licensed retail stores around the state on January 1, 2018.

So if you want your Coachella experience to involve the hot new California treat of legal, adult-use recreational cannabis, get yourself off the restricted grounds of Coachella Fest and out into the general Coachella Valley, where numerous legal cannabis adventures await you.

Traveling to California for Legal Cannabis? Here’s What to Know

The basic facts of California cannabis legalization: Adults aged 21 and up are legally allowed to purchase and possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis flower and up to eight grams of cannabis concentrate. Buyers must present valid ID at point of purchase—out-of-state driver’s licenses work fine—and sales are only permitted between 6 am and 10 pm.

Cannabis buyers must present valid ID at point of purchase. (Out-of-state driver’s licenses work fine.)

As for consumption, cannabis can only be legally consumed inside a private residence or at a business licensed for on-site cannabis consumption. All public consumption of cannabis is forbidden, including in areas designated for cigarette smoking. Those caught smoking cannabis in public face fines of $100-$250.

Regarding cars: It is illegal to consume cannabis while operating a motor vehicle. (Duh.) But even smoking in a parked car is dicey, inviting busts for either public cannabis use or, if the engine’s running, operating a vehicle under the influence.

The Leafly Buyer’s Guide to Southern California Cannabis Products

As for transporting cannabis, the rules are similar to alcohol: No open containers in any part of the car that are accessible to the driver or passengers while the car is running. Avoid breaking the law by keeping your dispensary purchases sealed until you reach your destination and exit the vehicle, and if you must transport an open container of cannabis in your car, store it in the trunk.

Those caught smoking cannabis in public face fines of $100-$250.

It’s legal to grow up to six cannabis plants in a private home, and also legal for an adult to give another adult up to an ounce of cannabis and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate as a gift.

Along with its new recreational marketplace, California is home to a longstanding medical cannabis scene. Most California dispensaries serve both recreational and medical users, with high-dose medical products physically separated from the recreational stock and available for sale only to California-authorized medical users. Other California dispensaries are medical-only, and only people in possession of a current California medical authorization may enter. (Out-of-state medical authorizations are powerless.)

(Courtesy of Desert Organic Solutions)

Best of all, the Coachella Valley is home not only to numerous recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries—pooled largely in and around the town of Palm Springs—but also a functional cannabis delivery industry, ready to deliver legal recreational cannabis to any adult with an address. (That means requesting a delivery to the big flat rock just south of the cactus patch outside the Coachella Fest is a no-go.)

The Coachella Valley has functional cannabis delivery industry, ready to deliver legal recreational cannabis to any adult with an address.

“If we have a physical location, a street address, we can deliver,” says Gabriel Torres of the delivery-only Stoney dispensary, located eight miles west of the Coachella Fest in the town of Indian Wells. That means adults in homes, hotels, and AirBNBs in the Coachella Valley can place orders, receive deliveries, and get properly, legally, baked.

When I ask Gabriel if Stoney has prepared for Coachella’s influx of 90,000 potential new customers, he waves away any worry. “We’re ready to serve everyone!”

Beyond delivery, Coachella-goers who want a good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar dispensary experience will find what they’re looking for 20 miles west of the fest, in and around Palm Springs, which is home to a couple dozen cannabis retail outlets.

What are moon rocks and how do you smoke them?

The one I chose to visit was the first licensed dispensary in the Coachella Valley: Desert Organic Solutions, located in a single-story beige building in a beige office park in a beige desert, and packed with green.

After explaining myself to the friendly budtender—“I am a regular user with high tolerance and I want to get baked in a way that surprises me”—I purchased a Moon Rocks pre-roll that sent me to outer space (by way of a sundrenched hotel pool whose speakers blared the most beguiling adult-contemporary hits), and a Lowell Farms pre-roll that elevated the following day’s trip up the side of a mountain in a tramcar. More on that in tomorrow’s final installment, Coachella: The Valley; or, to Palms Springs and Beyond!

Lead image by becon/iStock

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Dave Schmader

Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader

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