Northern Nights Music Fest to Have Recreational Cannabis Sales & Consumption

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Peter Karas
Northern Nights Music Festival

The festival in the heart of the Emerald Triangle will be one of the first overnight, three-day festivals in the U.S. to legally allow recreational cannabis sales and consumption.

California’s Northern Nights Music Festival is continuing to push for the normalization of cannabis at live events as the annual festival announces the legal sale and consumption of weed. In the heart of the Emerald Triangle (the United States’ largest cannabis producing region made up of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties), Northern Nights will be a forerunner in overnight music festivals that is complaint with legal cannabis sales and consumption.

“We are going to have a cannabis retail and consumption area that goes by the name of the Tree Lounge. It is 21 and over area and cannabis sales and consumption are restricted to that area,” says Northern Nights co-founder and compliance manager Peter Huson. “Essentially it is an onsite temporary dispensary. It has all the same rules you would have at a dispensary, it’s just inside a festival.”

The Tree Lounge will have its own curated stage with live music including local hip-hop crews, surprise sets and DJs spinning dance hall, reggae and more. In addition, the area will feature activities such as CBD yoga, workshops, movement classes with cannabis and more.

Local Emerald Triangle growers will be on hand to sell their strains and educate attendees about their product and where it comes from.

“In the Tree Lounge, we are going to highlight the history and the culture and the small [cannabis] farmers of Humboldt and Mendocino counties,” says Northern Nights co-founder Andrew Blap. “You can come meet the farmers and see the people who have been growing weed for you for years. You never really put a face to the name, but now with legalization you can.”

Cannabis growers will also be sponsors of the Lounge and provide activities for consumers.

“These sponsors are really getting involved with different activations. For example, [local grower] Flow Kana is going to do a farm to bong competition. It will take local produce and vegetables and you’re going to be able to carve a bong and the winner will get announced each day,” Blap tells Billboard. “If we can promote some of the local brands then these attendees are going to think about that when they are buying weed the rest of the year.”

Northern Nights festival is located in the scenic, wooded atmosphere on the border of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. Prior to the legalization of recreational cannabis use in the California, the festival was compliant with regulations that allowed designated consumption areas for those with medical licenses to use marijuana. Cannabis was officially legal in January of 2018, but open consumption was strictly relegated to county fairgrounds.

In September of 2018, the state introduced bill AB 2020 which allowed for counties to provide temporary permits for events with recreational use outside of fairgrounds. With the help from Northern Nights organizers, Humboldt County was swift to provide a permit for the summer festival taking place from July 19-21 partially in their jurisdiction.

“We are right in the middle of the Emerald Triangle on the border of Humboldt and Mendocino county. A lot of our staff and patrons are people that live and work around there and are related to the industry,” says Northern Nights talent and art director Matty Roberts.

California law does not allow for the recreational consumption of alcohol and cannabis in the same area, so Northern Nights has taken advantage of the fact that it resides in two counties. Cannabis consumption will be allowed on the Humboldt County side of the event, while alcohol consumption will be allowed on the Mendocino side without cannabis.

“Everyone is going to be comfortable in both the alcohol and the cannabis spaces,” Huson tells Billboard. “We separated them by county because our event happens on the county line with the idea that you can demonstrate compliance and responsible management of these areas. We want to help get to a point in the future where you could have both cannabis and alcohol in the same county and at the same event.”

Huson compares the Tree Lounge to 21-and-over beer gardens found at many music festivals across the country. The legal sale and consumption will also eliminate the need for festival-goers travel with cannabis or sneak marijuana into the event.   

“The normalization of cannabis is a really positive thing,” says Roberts. “To be part of that, and to be a leader in that, we’re very honored and truly humbled to get to do that.”

Northern Nights returns to Humboldt and Mendocino Country at the Cook’s Valley Campground from July 19-21. For more information on the Tree Lounge, tickets and lineup, head here.

Festivals 2019