Marijuana Legalization And The Possibility Of Dispensaries At Music Festivals

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For decades, countless music fans have considered cannabis and concerts to go hand-in-hand. As legalization spreads across the country, this has led to questions about the future of cannabis at concert venues, and how consumers can legally and more conveniently enjoy marijuana at live events. Does the legalization of recreational cannabis mean that dispensaries will now be able to set up shop at these venues, and is there a roadmap for effectively rolling them out?

The answer, unfortunately, is that accomplishing this will be difficult from a legal perspective. This is due to the fact that established entertainment venues generally have alcohol on the premises which, under the laws in most states, is not to be mixed with cannabis consumption. Accordingly, such an establishment would need to only sell cannabis, and alcohol consumption would not be permitted on-site. In addition, the venue would be required to obtain a special license that is both highly regulated and competitive, and most states are still working out the regulation of the sales and production market. As a result, these locations are particularly sparse.

Events and festivals carry their own set of unique challenges and complications with regards to cannabis law. In California, if consumers are allowed to consume cannabis at a certain location, this doesn't necessarily mean they are able to purchase it there as well. For example, if one were to go to a venue in order to consume and buy cannabis, the event holder must have a cannabis “event license” in addition having a retail license, or must contract with retailers to sell cannabis on-site. The cannabis-related limitations placed on events vary from state to state.

In California, cannabis-friendly festivals require a cannabis event license at both the state and local level, and the ability to obtain this license varies from city to city and is largely unattainable. Los Angeles City Council initially intended to put forth these event licenses last December, but this has been delayed by other licensing matters and likely won’t happen until at least 2021. Cannabis consumption lounges have opened in West Hollywood, with a few more set to open soon, and some have entertainment options. There are also locations that are more entertainment focused (without cannabis) and are permissive to consumption or turn a blind eye to cannabis use on its premises.

Other cities in Southern California allow public cannabis-related events, however they tend to be extremely limited and are held mostly on fairgrounds. The annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one of the most popular and well-known concerts of its kind, has banned cannabis from the official show. However, there are typically unofficial parties and events accompanying Coachella where consumption is commonplace – which don’t usually carry a license. The determination on whether a license is required generally boils down to whether the event is public or private. Other areas that have slowly begun to push the bounds of social consumption include Colorado and Las Vegas. Las Vegas has gotten very close to getting approval for consumption lounges, but ongoing opposition from casinos has all but extinguished those efforts.

orthern California has been more open to cannabis-friendly events, but still mostly in a trade show capacity. However, Outside Lands, San Francisco’s largest music festival, recently became the first major U.S. festival to allow on-site marijuana consumption and sales. In 2019, the festival was granted a last-minute event permit, which allowed the cannabis delivery app Eaze to sponsor a designated “Grass Lands” exhibit featuring a number of different vendors. While alcohol was available at Outside Lands, drinks and inebriated attendees were not allowed entry into the separate, fenced-in Grass Lands area. This event was successful and can serve as a business model for festivals that want cannabis consumption on-site – they must strictly bifurcate their alcohol and cannabis consumption areas, as Outside Lands did, and they would technically be in compliance as alcohol would not be on the licensed temporary cannabis consumption premises.

It will be a long haul down the legalization path before cannabis is normalized enough to become ubiquitous at entertainment venues. A major hurdle facing entertainment events has been the inability to sell both alcohol and cannabis, since alcohol has always been a major money-maker for these venues. However, the workaround used by Outside Lands in 2019 is a promising step forward. Additionally, California will need to overcome the issue of local municipalities banning cannabis sales and consumption. This will then need to be followed by encouraging municipalities to allow for cannabis event licenses, which requires permission from locals and then from the state itself.

Once cities begin to see the successful proliferation of these event licenses, then consumers will see some truly interesting events that are cannabis centric and have great entertainment value. However, it will likely still be a few more years before the concert-going public can count on regularly seeing on-site dispensaries during the summer festival season.

 
 
 
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