Growing Grass Lands: Superfly's Rick Farman Discusses Outside Lands' First Foray Into Legal Cannabis

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.
 Guests in the Grass Lands area during the 2019 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 09, 2019 in San Francisco.

Just before Twenty One Pilots took the main stage at Outside Lands on Friday (Aug. 9), a thick blanket of fog rolled over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and covered the festival grounds in a milky cloud. By the time the headliners made their entrance the haze had dissipated, but Tyler Joseph cracked the joke there for the taking in between songs.

“The fog rolled in,” he quipped. “Either that, or you’re smoking a lot of weed.”

Joseph wasn’t the only one to allude to the crowd’s fondness for cannabis. Mark Hoppus of blink-182 teased the “pot-smokin’ weirdos” during his set and Lil Wayne shouted out smokers before them -- and this crowd, in particular, was invited to partake in toking at a music festival in a completely legal way for the very first time.

With Grass Lands, Outside Lands established themselves as the first festival to work the legal vending and consumption of cannabis into its programming. They introduced Grass Lands in 2018 with an educational, curated focus for patrons, but it wasn’t possible for attendees to procure cannabis products, or consume them, on site. In 2019, that changed: as they’ve done with Gastro Magic and its collaborative culinary programming, or Wine Lands and its viticultural offerings, Outside Lands co-producer Superfly took a local approach to Grass Lands and sought out 24 vendors who represent the Bay Area and its booming cannabis industry in a lush, wooded enclave a few hundred feet from the main polo field.

"Our mission here at Outside Lands is to represent everything amazing about Bay Area culture and Northern California’s business and artistic community," Rick Farman, Superfly's co-founder, told Billboard regarding Grass Land's local emphasis. "Northern California has been one of the epicenters of the cannabis movement, of legalization, and also of a lot of the business -- a lot of the brands doing great work in this space are based in the Bay Area. To be able to present that is very in sync with our mission, similar to what we do with Wine Lands and what we do with Beer Lands, what we do with the food here. To actually be able to do that and have legal sales and consumption really is just part of a natural evolution to our mission."

Grass Lands offers several multi-sensory experiences for those interested in taking a detour from the music, and within hours of the main gates of the festival opening, community murals had already been painted near the designated consumption areas, and people were perusing edibles by Kiva and strolling through Cresco's Greenhouse, which was stocked with plants and knowledge about cannabis' restorative and refreshing properties. 

For Farman, the sustainably-minded Flow Kana are a perfect example of the ideal vendor given their commitment to the community. "They have a very distinct mission of helping smaller growers and farmers in California get their product to market and do it in a beneficial way for the farmer. We love the values, the way they’ve gone about it. For them to be a part of this is totally natural."

To get to the murals, the goods and the green, interested festival-goers have to get their IDs checked just as they would to purchase alcohol elsewhere on the festival grounds, and they're welcome to partake in smoking or their preferred mode of enjoyment in fenced-off areas apart from the vendors. A small stage is set up for performances, and Farman is hopeful that talent will play a bigger role in growing Grass Lands' potential in the years to come.

"As we mature, this experience, hopefully, will be able to integrate artists who are coming to the festival anyway into being a part of telling the story how cannabis has influenced their creative process, how it’s been beneficial to them," he said. "There’s such a deep connection between music and food and art and cannabis. One of the things we love to do as a company and one of our programming philosophies is being that nexus, being a place where people from different disciplines come together to create things that wouldn’t happen anywhere else. The opportunity to do that with Grass Lands is going to be significant over the years."

Superfly produces a number of major festivals, including Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., and they're open to taking what they learn from Grass Lands' first year and applying it at events that take place in areas where the consumption and vending of cannabis is a legal, organic possibility.

"Let’s put it this way: anywhere it’s legal and they have legal consumption and legal sales, we’re open and interested," Farman said. "Since this is the first time we’re doing this, we’re going to evaluate it and see whether it was a smart, productive part of our event. If we feel like we can do it safely and it’s beneficial to our audience and how we do things, sure -- we’d look to other opportunities."


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