Chalice Festival Sues Bureau of Cannabis Control as Weed-Centric Events Battle With Legalization
Many established cannabis events are struggling to work with California's new regulations.
Cannabis, art, and music event Chalice Festival has filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against the newly developed Bureau of Cannabis Control and the city of Victorville. The lawsuit filed against the BCC and Victorville claims that the BCC's refusal to provide Chalice Festival with a temporary event license is "based on an incorrect interpretation to the law and is contrary to the law."
"We have a history of creating and maintaining a safe atmosphere and we will continue to provide this culture with a safe place to be who you are without fear of arrest or discrimination for being a cannabis consumer. The City of Victorville has put us at risk," Chalice Festival's website currently reads.
It continues: "The lawsuit with the BCC is moving forward and we will be continuing to fight for the rights of the community. Our sponsors, vendors, artists, and brand owners are our personal friends- as well as you, the community, and we do not want to put you at risk."
Filed in June of this year, the complaint argues that the BCC was wrong in denying a permit for the 3-day festival that has resided in Victorville, California for two years. This year's July 13-15 festival has been postponed by an estimated four months by Chalice parent company, Wisdom Apparatus, since Victorville officials voted no on July 3 on a permit for the event at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds based on the new cannabis regulations.
During the 2016 election, California residents passed Prop 64 which would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state. The proposition permits events where marijuana is consumed and sold to only take place at roughly 80 state and municipally owned fairgrounds or agricultural association properties scattered throughout California. California’s Prop 64 also gave city and local governments significant control over what is and isn’t allowed in their community.
Organizers for Chalice are arguing that BCC alone has the authorization to issue the license based on the sovereign rights of the fairground which has approved the festival for the past two years and is suing to compel the BCC to issue the license without consent from the city of Victorville in San Bernardino County.
According to the complaint, BCC asked Chalice back in May to acquire authorization for the temporary event license from either the city or the county where the event would take place. The complaint states that Wisdom, Chalice, and the fairgrounds informed the BCC that the fairgrounds "enjoyed immunity for events at their property." Regardless, the three entities sought approval from Victorville officials and, according to the lawsuit, on June 1 Victorville went around the organizers to inform BCC that they would be denying the permit to Chalice. BCC officially denied Chalice's license on June 13.
In addition to attaining the license, Chalice's suit is asking the California Superior Court to clarify the regulations determined by Prop 64.
The complaint reads, Chalice "requests that the court make a declaration of the rights and duties of the parties under the laws of the State of California, and declare that the BCC does not need to get approval from any county or city to issue a temporary event license as long as the [District Agricultural Association/Fairground] where the event will be held has approved of the event."
Prior to the passage of Prop 64, organizers in California could host events that allowed the sale and consumption of cannabis under Prop 215. Prop 215 made the sale and consumption of medical marijuana legal with a permit as long as a designated area was sectioned off much like a beer garden for those over the age of 21. Since Prop 64 went into effect in January 2018, the state's biggest weed-centric events have been scrambling to meet the new requirements.
High Times' Cannabis Cup slated for 4/20 of this year faced a last minute permit denial from San Bernardino County just 48 hours before gates opened for the event. Organizers were forced to move forward with the event without the sale of cannabis due to a newly adopted city ordinance.
"Based on the Agriculture Incentive Zone laws, we did not pursue a city license until this week, as the city adopted an ordinance requiring municipal approval only 8 days ago," Rucker said in a statement provided to Amplify in April. "Given the 60 day lead time required for approval, the Board’s basis for denying the application, this put our brand in an impossible spot to meet all the required prerequisites."
High Life Music Festival, slated for Aug. 26-27 in San Bernardino, explained that Prop 64 has made them have to pivot their event for its third year. Steve Caprio with High Life, who previously hosted vendor villages and sales under Prop 215 between 2016-2017, explains to Billboard that they were forced to move away from being a cannabis-themed event and are marketing themselves as an all ages music festival due to the new regulations.
"We're in a transition period. We're in that grey area where change is happening. Everyone is scrambling to figure out what this is going to look like," Caprio tells Billboard. "I don't see it as legalization. I see it as a way for the government to profit off of something that grows naturally. I feel like it was more legal before."
High Life will feature a 21+ cannabis garden where consumers can bring their own and where vendors can show off products and tools without sales.
"It is still the High Life Festival, but we have to play by the rules," Caprio says. "A lot of the people who have gotten cannabis events to where they are, are being forgotten. Big business is doing what big business does."
Northern California music festival, Northern Nights, has also tried to stress the importance of supporting those who have responsibly been in the cannabis community for years. The Humboldt/Mendocino County event will not be hosting its annual Prop 215 area due to the new regulations, but is encouraging festival goers to purchase from local growers with a $200 discount when they buy from one of 15 local dispensaries.
Northern Nights, which partnered with Coran Capshaw’s Starr Hill Presents and the Emerald Cup earlier this year, is hoping to bring cannabis back to the redwoods in 2019 through amended legislation.
Organizers for Northern Nights are backing a bill currently making its way to the State Senate, called AB 2020. AB 2020 would allow local governments to grant a temporary license to allow for the purchase and consumption of cannabis at a special event held at a venue expressly permitted by a local jurisdiction, not just agricultural venues or fairgrounds.
As Northern Nights' Project Engineer, Peter Huson, explains, California cities such as Oakland, Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Berkeley, Emeryville or Santa Ana have robust cannabis ordinances and programs, but no county fairgrounds or agricultural association which leaves them unable to host events. While Northern Nights has been able to present a stage at the Emerald Cup at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, organizers along with partners Starr Hill Presents want to be able to bring aspects of Emerald Cup to their music festival.
"We're looking at it as a music event that has a cannabis bar," Huson tells Billboard. "The idea is normalize cannabis like alcohol. That's really the model."
The passage of AB 2020 would also allow non-weed-centric events the ability to bring cannabis retailers into their gates.
"Most important is being able to have cannabis on sale at events. It boosts the sponsorship revenue because these brands are now going to want to sponsor events because they can make it back in sales," Huson says. "Right now you can sponsor an event and make it back on impressions and branding."
To date, only two open consumption events have occurred in California. The High Times Cannabis Cup NorCAL 2018 held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds followed the Central Valley Cannabis Cup in Sacramento held in May, which made history as the first legal cannabis consumption event. Both events were produced by High Times.