Permit Denial Leaves 4/20 Cannabis Cup Dry, Not High

At last year's Cup: Free samples are passed out to visitors at the High Times Cannabis Cup in San Bernardino, Calif., on April 23, 2017. (Richard Vogel/AP)

High Times’ Southern California Cannabis Cup, the fabled brand’s first event in the state’s regulated legal cannabis era, will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday—but without the cannabis sales and open consumption that festival-goers were anticipating.  

Because of a missed deadline, the San Bernardino City Council denied High Times' application to allow cannabis sales and open consumption.

On Wednesday night, the San Bernardino City Council unanimously denied High Times’ permit to stage the SoCal Cannabis Cup at the National Orange Show Events Center under state regulations that now allow sales and consumption at state fairgrounds and agriculture district venues.

The council’s 6-0 vote followed the city’s adoption of an ordinance last week requiring city approval for such events at venues within city limits. The council cited High Times’ failure to meet the 60-day advance lead time required for event approval under state law.

“This put our brand in an impossible spot to meet all the required prerequisites,” Brian Rucker, High Times’ senior vice president for events, said in a statement on Thursday.

The City of San Bernardino did not respond to Leafly’s inquiry for comment early Thursday afternoon.

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The Show Will Go On

The SoCal Cannabis Cup, headlined by rappers Nas, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross and others, will still be staged for an anticipated crowd of 20,000 over the 4/20 weekend. But there will be no cannabis vending and no authorized cannabis consumption. There will be a tattoo village, a petting zoo and laser tag games.

Vendors that had signed up to sell cannabis will now be mere exhibitors. High Times spokesman Jon Capetta told Leafly that any cannabis consumption at the three-day event will be strictly bring-your-own.

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They Had a Plan B

High Times had anticipated that it might not receive approval to hold the event under the new state regulations governing adult-use recreational cannabis. But they believed they could stage this year’s Cup under an interpretation of pre-legalization regulations governing medicinal collectives and cooperatives.

The Kushstock Festival, held March 31 of this year at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, operated under similar conditions. At that event, organizers created a legal cannabis consumption area accessible only by people with a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis.

“From a very technical perspective, Prop. 215 areas are not part of the collective and cooperative law,” said California cannabis attorney Omar Figueroa. “There’s nothing that says event organizers can set up Prop. 215 areas and anything that goes on inside is legal. But as a practical matter, that’s how they have functioned. It’s definitely a gray area of the law and it’s not regulated.”

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Chalice 2018: Similar Issues?

The Chalice Festival announced earlier this month that it will stage California’s first legal on-premises consumption event in at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in July, but permit information does not appear in the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control database. Chalice promoter Doug Dracup did not respond to Leafly’s requests to view a permit for this year’s Chalice Festival. Officials at the Bureau of Cannabis Control told Leafly they have not issued a permit for that event. 

Selling Could Jeopardize Licenses

Lori Ajax, chief of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, told San Bernardino city officials that her agency would permit High Times’ SoCal Cannabis Cup if the city council approved.

Earlier this week, the BCC warned licensed retailers that selling cannabis at an unlicensed event result could in loss of licenses and civil penalties.

High Times will revisit event permitting on Tuesday, when the Sacramento City Council votes on authorizing cannabis events.  High Times is promoting its Central Valley Cannabis Cup at the California State Exposition & State Fair, scheduled for May 4-5.

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