By: Savanna Wright
Marijuana has been headlining news stories for decades. Recently, cannabis legalization has been spreading across the country, making marijuana more mainstream now than ever. However, there are eight states where cannabis remains fully illegal. With the varying marijuana laws across the country, and how quickly the law is changing, it is challenging for individuals and companies to keep up. Entertainment venue owners in particular are struggling to navigate the future of cannabis at live events.
Regardless of the drug’s legal status, marijuana has gone hand-in-hand with concerts and music festivals for generations. The legal status of marijuana is completely altering the future of entertainment. Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act. This federal versus state legality dynamic creates several problems for entertainment venues that are attempting to provide legalized cannabis at their events.
The Bureau of Cannabis Control (“BCC”) is the governing agency concerning cannabis events and licenses in California. Although there are many states with legalized marijuana laws, the consumption of cannabis is far more restrictive compared to alcohol. For example, in California cannabis cannot be consumed in any visible location by the public. The areas designated to cannabis consumption must be controlled to individuals over twenty-one. And finally, alcohol cannot be consumed on licensed cannabis grounds. The last restriction is extremely limiting to entertainment venues, as music festivals and concerts typically license to alcohol vendors.
The majority of the total revenue an entertainment venue receives is from alcohol sales. A huge concern for these venues is the possibility of a loss in profits from permitting marijuana consumption at festivals and concerts rather than alcohol. In the past two years, California’s BCC adopted a temporary license that allows the sale of marijuana at outdoor events. This license authorizes music festivals to allow marijuana consumption on specified premises. The caveat is, alcohol can no longer be offered.
During the summer of 2019, San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival became the first music festival to combine both marijuana and alcohol sales. Outside Lands was able to get around the strict “no mixing” rule by creating a hidden 21-and-older area in the woods called “GrassLands”. This separate area apart from the main festival grounds only allowed the sale of marijuana. No alcohol sales were permitted within the boundaries of GrassLands. After a long struggle to obtain the proper licenses, the GrassLands organizers received the approval to sell marijuana at the festival just two days before the opening day. This revolutionary festival created a promising hope for the future of marijuana sales at music festivals. Outside Lands/GrassLands was a successful example of the future of cannabis consumption at entertainment venues.
Although the cannabis industry has progressed significantly in the past few years, there are still several legalization and discrimination hurdles to overcome. Our country still has a long way to go towards the normalized use of legal cannabis at music festivals. These cannabis-only festivals are required to obtain a cannabis event license at both the state and local level. Most states are still working out the kinks of marijuana legalization. Once the states finalize their marijuana regulations, then more municipalities can prepare to offer cannabis event licenses.
Outside Lands/GrassLands was certainly not the first time in history that cannabis was consumed at a music festival. However, we are standing on the brink of a cannabis revolution. The festival has paved the way for a brighter future for legal cannabis at entertainment events and shaped a fast-developing industry. The acceptance of cannabis is at an all-time high and entertainment venues cannot wait for the drug to take center stage.
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 Meital Manzuri, Marijuana Legalization And The Possibility Of Dispensaries At Music Festivals, Forbes (June 29, 2020, 12:01 PM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/legalentertainment/2020/06/29/marijuana-legalization-and-the-possibility-of-dispensaries-at-music-festivals/#30a2b20b4803.
 See Joseph B. Treaster, Woodstock Redux, Still Smoking, N.Y. Times (Aug. 21, 1994), https://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/21/nyregion/woodstock-redux-still-smoking.html; Manzuri, supra note 4.
 Booth Moore, Marijuana is Legal in California, Now Here Come the Hollywood Endorsement Deals, Hollywood Reporter (Jan. 2, 2018, 12:01PM), https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/californias-marijuana-legalization-creates-opportunity-hollywood-1070970.
 21 U.S.C. § 812(c) (2018).
 Daniel B. Pasternak, Three New State Laws Legalize Marijuana Use, Sparking More Confusion and Igniting Further Conflict With Federal Law, The Nat’l Law Rev. (Nov. 21, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/three-new-state-laws-legalize-marijuana-use-sparking-more-confusion-and-igniting.
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 Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5603(a)-(c) (2018).
 Manzuri, supra note 4.
 Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5601(a) (2018).
 Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5601(g) (2018).
 Anita Chabria & Patrick McGreevy, A whiff of the music festival future? Outside Lands sells cannabis for the first time, L. A. Times (Aug. 11, 2019, 10:00 PM), https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-11/outside-lands-cannabis-sales-music-festival.
 Max Motley, Grasslands: How Outside Lands Made History With Marijuana, KOPR (Sept. 7, 2019), https://kcpr.org/2019/09/07/grasslands-how-outside-lands-made-history-with-marijuana/.
 Dave Brooks, Outside Lands Becomes First-Ever California Fest to Offer Cannabis Sales, Consumption, Hollywood Reporter (Aug. 9, 2019, 4:49 PM), https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/historic-first-cannabis-sales-consumption-approved-major-california-festival-1230643.
 Jonathan Bloom, Wine, Beer and Weed: Grass Lands Brings Legal Cannabis to Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, NBC Bay Area (Aug. 12, 2019, 7:57 AM), https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/wine-beer-and-weed-grass-lands-brings-legal-cannabis-to-outside-lands-festival-in-san-francisco/150843/.
 See Nicholas Wu, House will vote on federal marijuana legalization for the first time, bill’s future in Senate uncertain, USA Today (Sep. 4, 2020, 6:01 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/09/04/marijuana-house-vote-federal-legalization-first-time/5678068002/.
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