By Benjie Cooper
YouTube: Lucid’s Vlog
With the activation date for California’s marijuana regulations less than two weeks away now, there is a discernible sense of anxiety that can be felt throughout the cannabis community. From seed to consumption, the expansive maze of new legal guidelines has many people wondering what the marijuana marketplace is going to look like in the next few months.
While cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers have plenty of hoops to jump through to make sure that they are in compliance with state law, there is one very popular and important component of the state cannabis culture that is awash with uncertainty when it comes to the new guidelines.
Small local events, or seshes, are an integral part of the cannabis society in California and are a regular occurrence; there’s usually one or more going on just about every day of the week. The events are not only places where patients can come together to find deals on medication, new products, and socialize; they are also the livelihood for vendors and organizers.
For a long time now these local cannabis events have been able to operate freely under Prop 215 as private functions without a problem. But with new regulations that will affect every aspect of these gatherings, organizers and vendors alike are very uncertain about their future at the moment.
Until now there haven’t been any specifically designated spaces where the events can take place. As long as permission was obtained from the venue owner and no other laws or ordinances were being broken, an organizer could hold an event with relative ease.
Under the new rules, cannabis events and festivals will be restricted to fairgrounds and district agricultural association properties and require local permission for each one held.
Even though places like the NOS Events Center in San Bernadino and the SBC Fair in Victorville are known for being among the few spots in the state that will host large marijuana festivals, getting permission from local authorities to hold events at the very same venues could prove to be difficult in 2018.
Last year, voters approved the citizen initiative known as the San Bernardino Regulate Marijuana Act Of 2016 (Measure O) which repealed the ban on cannabis businesses in the city and replaced it with a regulatory and permitting system. The city also put together a nine-member Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Marijuana (CAC); but as of yet, the subject of cannabis events has not been addressed explicitly in either the initiative or publicly by the CAC.
Even now, the fate of Measure O is still being decided as the City of San Bernardino is currently dealing with four related lawsuits. Two of them allege that the measure is invalid while two other suits claim that it is legitimate and that the city should implement it as soon as possible.
Despite what the outcome of the lawsuit tug-of-war may turn out to be, and even though they have begun their own litigation regarding Measure O, the City acknowledges its obligation under the initiative and continues to move forward with its implementation.
In Victorville, the SBC Fair has been cannabis event-friendly and been home to the Chalice Festival in the past, but the city council has not been keen on the gathering taking place there. In 2016, City spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Victorville Daily Press that the council unanimously opposed the event and anything like it that encouraged the use of recreational drugs.
While cannabis events of any size may be all but nonexistent in other legal states, Prop 64 includes language that allows for their continuance in California through a licensing system. Other than acquiring fees for the licenses and navigating the list of requirements to hold an event, one of the most significant hurdles at this point appears to be convincing the local city governments to provide allowances for them as the state law does.
As with anything else, education is going to be one of the keys to finding a way through this uncertain situation. There is a constant struggle to try to undo the decades of misconceptions, untruths, cliches, and propaganda that still hold an influence on the opinions of many voters and city council members across the state.
While the majority of California voters cast their ballot in favor of legal cannabis at the polls twice in the past twenty years, there are still individuals holding political office who cling to antiquated marijuana viewpoints and ideas from a dying era of prohibition which relied heavily on mass ignorance.
In an age where cannabis use is returning to its former status of pre-prohibition societal normalcy, mayors, council members, and others who sit in a position of political power need to have some form of modern viewpoint regarding marijuana. Otherwise, they function as a hindrance to the forward progress of the city and people they are elected to serve.
As California launches legal cannabis in 2018, the same kind of ignorance that kept it illegal for decades will continue to have an influence on the community as long as some people in positions of power remain uneducated. And again, if they cannot be reformed through education, they can be reformed at the ballot box.