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Dope Raves! Marijuana Dispensaries at Music Festivals

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.[1] However, there are eight states where cannabis remains fully illegal.[2] 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.[3] Entertainment venue owners in particular are struggling to navigate the future of cannabis at live events.[4]

Regardless of the drug’s legal status, marijuana has gone hand-in-hand with concerts and music festivals for generations.[5] The legal status of marijuana is completely altering the future of entertainment.[6] Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act.[7] This federal versus state legality dynamic creates several problems for entertainment venues that are attempting to provide legalized cannabis at their events.[8]

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (“BCC”) is the governing agency concerning cannabis events and licenses in California.[9] Although there are many states with legalized marijuana laws, the consumption of cannabis is far more restrictive compared to alcohol.[10] For example, in California cannabis cannot be consumed in any visible location by the public.[11] The areas designated to cannabis consumption must be controlled to individuals over twenty-one.[12] And finally, alcohol cannot be consumed on licensed cannabis grounds.[13] The last restriction is extremely limiting to entertainment venues, as music festivals and concerts typically license to alcohol vendors.[14]

The majority of the total revenue an entertainment venue receives is from alcohol sales.[15] 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.[16] In the past two years, California’s BCC adopted a temporary license that allows the sale of marijuana at outdoor events.[17] This license authorizes music festivals to allow marijuana consumption on specified premises.[18] The caveat is, alcohol can no longer be offered.[19]

During the summer of 2019, San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival became the first music festival to combine both marijuana and alcohol sales.[20] 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”.[21] This separate area apart from the main festival grounds only allowed the sale of marijuana.[22] No alcohol sales were permitted within the boundaries of GrassLands.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

Although the cannabis industry has progressed significantly in the past few years, there are still several legalization and discrimination hurdles to overcome.[26] 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.[27] Most states are still working out the kinks of marijuana legalization.[28] 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. 


[1] Map of Marijuana Legality by State, DISA, https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state (last visited on Sept. 9, 2020); Trevor Hughes, Marijuana’s big moment: Pot stores are essential businesses. Will legal weed go mainstream?, USA Today (Apr. 20, 2020), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/20/coronavirus-helping-marijuana-legal-weed-mainstream/5099803002/.

[2] Map of Marijuana Legality by Statesupra note 1.

[3] James E. Swauger, Caitlin F. Acheson & William McGrath, The Changing Face of Marijuana Regulation: Current Federal Status, Food & Drug Law Inst.(Oct. 2017), https://www.fdli.org/2017/10/changing-face-marijuana-regulation-current-federal-status/

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] Booth Moore, Marijuana is Legal in California, Now Here Come the Hollywood Endorsement DealsHollywood Reporter (Jan. 2, 2018, 12:01PM), https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/californias-marijuana-legalization-creates-opportunity-hollywood-1070970

[7] 21 U.S.C.  § 812(c) (2018). 

[8] 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

[9] Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5601 (2018). 

[10] J. Rehm & B. Fischer, Cannabis Legalization With Strict Regulation, the Overall Superior Policy Option for Public Health, Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Feb. 2015, at 4–5. 

[11] Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5603(a)-(c) (2018).

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Manzuri, supra note 4.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5601(a) (2018).

[18] Id.

[19] Cal. Code Regs. 16, § 5601(g) (2018).

[20] 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

[21] Id.

[22] 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/

[23] Id.

[24] 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

[25] 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/

[26] 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/

[27] Manzuri, supra note 4.

[28] M. Tae Phillips, Marijuana Legalization Update for 2020: A Primer on the Latest Medicinal and Recreational Use News, The Nat’l Law Rev. (Sept. 10, 2020), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/marijuana-legalization-update-2020-primer-latest-medicinal-and-recreational-use-news