We wrote a few months ago about proposed changes to California’s rules governing temporary events, and last week, we saw the first big casualty of the current permitting requirements under the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (“MAUCRSA”). High Times hosted its Southern California Cannabis Cup over the weekend, but was forced to do so without cannabis sales and without open consumption.
Pursuant to MAUCRSA, a state licensing authority may issue a state temporary marijuana event license to a licensee authorizing onsite cannabis sales to, and consumption by, persons twenty-one years of age or older at a “county fair or district agricultural association event, provided that certain other requirements are met.” One of these requirements is local approval: In all circumstances, licensed commercial cannabis activity must be conducted in accordance not only with state law, but with local law as well.
Two days before the event was scheduled to begin, the San Bernardino City Council unanimously (by a 6-0 vote) denied High Times’ permit to conduct the SoCal Cannabis Cup at the National Orange Show Events Center. This denial was based on an ordinance passed the week prior that requires city approval for these types of cannabis events within city limits. The City Council also noted High Times’ failure to meet the 60-day advance lead time required for event approval pursuant to state law.
High Times opted to host the event without a temporary event permit, and without any cannabis vending or authorized cannabis consumption. Prior to the event, a High Times spokesman told Leafly that “any cannabis consumption at the three-day event will be strictly bring-your-own.” This strategy presents its own problems, where nothing in MAUCRSA permits any person to:
- Smoke or ingest cannabis or cannabis products in a public place;
- Smoke cannabis or cannabis products in a location where smoking tobacco is prohibited; or
- Smoke cannabis or cannabis products within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.
High Times also indicated that it intended to utilize an “interpretation of pre-legalization regulations governing medicinal collectives and cooperatives” by creating a cannabis consumption area accessible only by people with a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis. But there is nothing in Proposition 215 that explicitly authorizes these types of consumption areas, or renders them exempt from local law approval.
In fact, earlier last week the Bureau of Cannabis Control (“BCC”) issued a notice to all stakeholders clarifying that “lawful participation by bureau licensees in any temporary cannabis event that allows sales and/or consumption is dependent upon issuance of the appropriate licenses from the bureau,” and that licensees participating in unlicensed events would be subject to disciplinary action. The notice went on to state that although qualified patients and their caregivers that continue to operate collectively or cooperatively without a state cannabis license are not subject to certain state criminal sanctions based solely on their cultivation or manufacturing of cannabis for medicinal purposes pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 11362.775 until the section is repealed on January 9, 2019, there is nothing in the Code that authorizes “collectives” or “cooperatives” to participate in cannabis events, commonly known as “Proposition 215” events, where cannabis is sold and/or consumed.
In High Times’ cases, the BCC was actually willing to permit the SoCal Cannabis Cup if the City Council approved. But as we all know by now, cities and counties have extensive authority to regulate commercial cannabis activity, and without local approval these activities will not be legal.
For more on California cannabis events and social consumption, see:
- On-Site Cannabis Consumption in California: Progress Report
- California Cannabis Events: Coming to a City Near You?
- More Action on California’s Cannabis Event Permit Rules