Skip to main content

As Coachella Passes on Pot, Coran Capshaw and Others Make a Play For Cannabis Events

Sorry bro, but there's going to be more cannabis smoked, eaten and vaporized at this year's Coachella festival in Southern California than probably ever before.

Sorry bro, but there’s probably going to be more cannabis smoked, eaten and vaporized at this year’s Coachella festival in Southern California than ever before – and there are more pot-centric festivals ahead for those who don’t want to deal with paranoia of breaking the rules.

Though AEG’s Goldenvoice — which derives its name from a popular marijuana strain that users said gave them a feeling of being spoken to by angels — is not green-lighting pot use at Coachella (a rep tells Billboard that the pot laws on the books as of 2018 are too new and marijuana consumption is illegal at the federal level) Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw, who manages 2018 Coachella performers Portugal. the Man and Odesza, is one one of many music heavyweights that’s quietly entered the fast-growing space. He is positioning his promotion company Starr Hill Presents to take a lead once California lawmakers clarify what is and isn’t allowed at cannabis-centric events.

Today, Northern Nights Music Fest announced a partnership with Starr Hill and the Emerald Cup, a cannabis event Capshaw invested in last year. By joining forces with Northern Nights, which takes place on the banks of the South Fork Eel River in the heart of the Emerald Triangle (California’s weed-growing Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties), Capshaw and Starr Hill are hoping to introduce a legal cannabis component to the dance music and camping festival in 2019. In past years, Northen Nights has had a medical pot component in past years that it’s hoping could one day allow for recreational use. 

As Coachella Passes on Pot, Coran Capshaw and Others Make a Play For Cannabis Events
Northern Nights Glen Matheny

Other major pot brands, like High Times magazine, are also getting into the space and hoping to eventually seize the Golden State’s two largest markets — Los Angeles and the Bay Area. In March High Times Productions, the event-management team for High Times Media, announced an exclusive partnership with Reggae on the River, another Emerald Triangle festival.


High Times owns several Cannabis Cup events in the state while Starr Hill has bought into the Emerald Cup, held in Santa Rosa, California and considered one of North America’s premier showcases for cannabis cultivators and enthusiasts, and up until last year, open to medical card holders who paid to consume, celebrate and purchase pot at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Although cannabis was legalized, it doesn’t necessarily follow that medical events can simply open up to recreational users, but two laws working their way through the California legislature could create a less restrictive rule set for marijuana events than what is currently allowed.

“California’s new regulations will hopefully give us a path to full compliance,” said Red Light’s Jim Lewi, who noted his company is being overly cautious about “trying to position ourselves with the right people, specifically people who follow the law.”

Lewi is also the organizer behind a marijuana conference in Colorado that launched last year called Aspen High Summit, piggybacking off his successful annual music industry retreat known as Aspen Live.

“Part of the challenge going forward will be complying with laws about how marijuana is delivered and sold,” Lewi said. Current rules require all vendors be licensed by the state and all product lab-tested and packaged for individual sale, with clear labels listing ingredients and how much THC — the compound in cannabis that makes people high — is in inside.

Alcohol and tobacco sales are banned from marijuana events, which can only last four days. Organizers also have to pay the California Bureau of Cannabis Control $5,000 for an annual license to host one to 10 events and $10,000 to host more than 10 in one year. Organizers will also need to apply for a temporary state permit, costing $1,000, for each event they host. Currently, events where marijuana is consumed and sold can only take place at 80 state and municipally owned fairgrounds or agricultural association properties scattered throughout California — sites like Fairplex in LA County, the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and CalExpo in Sacramento. A detailed outline of rules for Cannabis events can be found here.


Organizers need to “check with local authorities to see if they need a permit,” said Kieran Ringgenberg, an Oakland, California attorney who specializes in cannabis business issues. California’s Prop 64, which legalized recreational weed via voter referendum in 2016, gives city and local governments significant control over what is and isn’t allowed in their community. In fact, only two cities in Los Angeles and Orange County currently allow recreational sales — West Hollywood and Santa Ana, although that number is expected to expand.

“Just like alcohol sales and consumption, there’s a licensing process and local laws for compliance,” Ringgenberg said, adding that regulators typical don’t allow liquor sales at events where marijuana is being consumed.

Lewi said Starr Presents first worked with Northern Nights at last year’s Emerald Cup with the festival’s talent buyers curating a stage and dance experience for Emerald Cup attendees. He also said that Northern Nights offered a more high-end experience that other events, described as “a city-meets-country, culturally-fused experience of music, swimming, yoga, cannabis and glamping at one of the world’s most stunning outdoor festival venues, Cook’s Valley Campground on the Humboldt / Mendocino County Line.”

Northern Night’s Andrew Blap told Billboard in a statement “I’m very excited about the new partnership and taking Northern Nights Music Festival to higher levels. We couldn’t ask for more synergy between Tim Blake’s The Emerald Cup team and Coran Capshaw Starr Hill Presents’ team to continue to honor the history of the area and celebrate electronic music with the same production sensibilities for which we are known.”

Learn more at www.northernnights.org

Festivals 2018