California Governor OKs Way More Cannabis Events

Legal cannabis events are set to come roaring back after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2020 Wednesday. Above, no cannabis smoking or sales were allowed at the High Times 420 SoCal Cannabis Cup in San Bernardino, Calif. Saturday, April 21, 2018. (Richard Vogel/AP)

SACRAMENTO CA — Get ready to pack legal bowls at the Hollywood Bowl, the Rose Bowl and maybe even the location of California’s next Super Bowl. While still pipe dreams, all will be legal possibilities next year under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.

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Assembly Bill 2020 vastly expands the type and number of venues than can host licensed cannabis events. Currently only two state fairgrounds have been able to host cannabis competitions, smokeouts and sales. Now that AB 2020 is law, promoters can stage events at loads of public and private venues and outdoor spaces — concert halls, amphitheaters, art museums, stadiums, parks and urban streets; basically anyplace local officials allow them to be held.

'The possibilities are endless.'
Fernando Alvarez, events promoter, San Jose, CA.

“It opens up the market,” Fernando Alvarez, a San Jose promoter of boutique events, told Leafly. “There’s nothing really wrong with county fairgrounds or agricultural centers but people have to travel far out to get to them.”

“It’s a great day for  cannabis events,” said Jim Lewi, a national concert promoter and music manager with Red Light Management who’s working with The Emerald Cup, the acclaimed Northern California festival that’s returning to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in December.

Until AB 2020 takes effect Jan. 1, state regulations allow events only at state-administered fairgrounds and agricultural district properties — venues perfectly suitable for carnivals and 4-H shows but not necessarily the best venues for an emerging industry to strut its stuff for mainstream, perhaps even upscale, audiences. There’s dozens of county fairgrounds around the state, but to date, only Santa Rosa and Sacramento have permitted cannabis events at fairgrounds within their city limits. Officials in cities like Victorville and San Bernardino have rejected cannabis events at fairgrounds in their city limits.

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Oakland, Los Angeles Events Are Coming

The City of Oakland co-sponsored AB 2020, with an eye toward cannabis sales at Art + Soul Oakland, the street festival held each summer in a downtown location well-served by public transportation.

“With this bill now law, any local jurisdiction can choose to take part in this robust industry, while supporting small businesses, enhancing regional economic opportunities, and maintaining safety,” Oakland councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said in a statement released by the bill’s author, Assemblyman Bill Quirk.

Alvarez said he’s approaching museums and jazz festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area and envisions highly curated events for smaller audiences, a fraction of the size of The Emerald Cup or High Times’ Cannabis Cups.

“The possibilities are endless,” Alvarez said. “Brand-name comedians want to work with us. Grammy Award-winning artists want to work with us. Executive chefs want to work with us. We’re just trying to land a venue.”

While The Emerald Cup eyes statewide expansion, Lewi said it’s too early to identify any venues.

“We need to look at paths to compliance,” the concert industry veteran told Leafly. “For instance, in Los Angeles, the city is and will be supportive, but they just aren’t ready yet.”

Lewi said community outreach is a must, whether the venue is the Hollywood Bowl, the Rose Bowl or a community playhouse.

“Every time you think about a venue, you can count off reasons why it won’t work, at least not at this time,” Lewi said. “We need to have dialogues with communities.”