The Future of Cannabis at Concerts Explored at Billboard's Live Music Summit
Top event organizers discussed safe and legal ways to combine marijuana and music during the The Going Green: What Does Cannabis Legalization Mean for Touring panel.
Non-combustibles may be the future of cannabis at live events. The Going Green: What Does Cannabis Legalization Mean for Touring panel at this year's Billboard Live Music Summit in Beverly Hills had experts in the event industry discussing the future of marijuana at music events and beyond.
With strict smoking regulations in various states throughout America, artist managers and event organizers from top cannabis events such as High Times and Emerald Cup mused that edibles may be the solution for the future.
"Our endgame is not just to do these events but to be the Aramark of cannabis, so to speak," said Jim Lewi, manager at LiveWorks/Red Light Management, which has invested in cannabis event, The Emerald Cup.
Lewi told the audience at the Montage Hotel that in the coming years it will become commonplace for venues to have cannabis integrated into their food and beverage menus.
Founder and producer of The Emerald Cup, Tim Blake, added that it took several decades for the government to find the right regulations for alcohol, but the cannabis business has already been working out the kinks in live events for years.
"This industry is so mature, we don't need 20 or 30 years. We could get by this in a couple of years," said Blake. "The Emerald Cup got a standing ovation last year from the fire departments, the post-production team and the police departments because we had less issues than any event they have ever put on there."
Cannabis is "already at every event there ever was," Blake added. "We need to break these rules down. It is time for Live Nation and AEG and everybody else to bring that into the fold, have cannabis at every event. The sooner we do that, the more money we could be making."
A huge obstacle for organizers incorporating cannabis into their events has been the new regulations put in place once states legalize recreational cannabis. In California, recreational use was passed in 2016 with Prop 64 that went into effect in January. The law made cannabis consumption legal at the state level, but local jurisdictions could control cannabis-related events causing additional hurdles for established events.
High Times' Cannabis Cup in Sacramento, Calif. was the first open consumption event in the state.
High Times VP of Events Sameen Ahmad detailed on the panel how the 44-year-old brand had to hire a lobbyist and work with mayor of Sacramento and the city council to host the first legal cannabis consumption event in the nation's history.
"The state has passed a law that allows these events to happen and yet these events are happening constantly behind closed doors," said Ahmad. "We wanted to do it right and bring it all to the table and we did. It was incredible. We got people from all walks of life."
The High Times Central Valley Cannabis Cup was held in May in compliance with Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) guidelines in California.
Panelist, Sonya Logman, deputy secretary of business and consumer relations at California Business, Consumer Services & Housing Agency, which oversees the BCC, explained they have developed regulations based on the way alcohol is consumed in public.
"We want to make sure that the folks that are putting on these events are the ones who are ultimately responsible for making sure that it's safe and that folks over 21 are the ones that are there for consumption and sales events," she said.
Logman added that "cannabis and alcohol are not intended to overlap," which causes food and beverage providers to scale down or choose between selling one or the other.
For some artists and managers, the end game with cannabis events is about reimagining live spaces.
Cosmic Management/Primary Wave artist manager, Deb Klein, who has worked on cannabis events and education with Cypress Hill and Melissa Etheridge, explained that clients are coming up with new and creative ways to introduce cannabis into the live experience.
"Melissa will be coming from the health and wellness side. She wants to have a one-day festival. She's going to want to have her products there. She's going to want to do it in a beautiful space and it's really going to be promoting her brand," said Klein, adding that with Cypress Hill "you're not gonna be able to see your friend because it's gonna be so smoky. It's balancing those things and where it fits."
Klein added that more private spaces that welcome and cater to a cannabis consuming crowd are something to expect more of in the future.
"I don't look at like Hollywood Bowls being an end game for me," said Klein. "I feel like we could have our own private clubs. It's your building, you're a member and then you can do what you want inside."