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Photo by E.I. Hillian

Cannabizness: Understanding Cannabis within the Live Event Marketplace

While Cannabis is not legalized federally in the United States, many of the States have begun to legalize recreational use. The Canadian Government also recently introduced legislation that would legalize it nationwide. This presents a huge opportunity for the live events industry to capitalize on cannabis culture.

The XLIVE Conference this year is taking place November 17 - 20, 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are preparing by highlighting the various topics that will be covered throughout the conference. Continuing our series in diving into the featured sessions we will be looking at the following: XLIVE 2019: Session: Cannabizness: Understanding Cannabis within the Live Event Marketplace hosted by Steve Clayton the CEO of Sound Skilz on November 18 from 4:00 pm - 4:30 pm.

While Cannabis is not legalized federally in the United States, many of the States have begun to legalize recreational use. The Canadian Government also recently introduced legislation that would legalize it nationwide. This presents a huge opportunity for the live events industry to capitalize on cannabis culture. “Cannabizness” has been booming with the industry estimated to have brought in $7 to $9 billion in 2018. From growing, to selling to publications to websites, every aspect of the cannabis industry is soaring so it only makes sense that the live events marketplace is also getting in on the action. There are many factors like permits and safety to take into consideration when it comes to integrating legal cannabis use at a festival or other live event.

California Paves the Way

In 1996 California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Now eleven of the states and Washington D.C. have fully legalized recreational use and 33 states now allow it medicinally.

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Graphic from Third Way

In May of 2018 the first ever legal cannabis consumption event was held in California. The Central Valley Cannabis Cup was held in Sacramento and paved the way for another major event, the High Times Cannabis Cup NorCAL 2018 which took place in Sonoma County just a month after in June. Featuring performances from Lauren Hill and Lil Wayne, the event served as proof that a large scale entertainment event could host legal cannabis consumption successfully.  

“Our Central Valley Cannabis Cup in Sacramento was an enormous success,” CEO of High Times, Adam Levin tells Amp the Mag. “For the first time, our community was allowed to invite all of its participants of legal age – not just those with a medical card. This was a monumental step in the legalization movement.”

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Photo by E.I. Hillian

The event was filled with live music performances, podcast recordings, culinary experiences, and an exhibitor village where many companies came to show off their high quality products. A panel of judges even selected winners for the best booth, glass, product, edible, topical, and many other categories. Overall the weekend showed what a well rounded event featuring cannabis could look like. 

Northern Nights Music Festival which takes place at the Cooks Valley Campgrounds in Northern California hosted their own “Cannabis Infused Wellness Experience” inside the festival grounds. It was curated by local cannabis brand Humboldt Farms and San Francisco’s City Fit Fest co-founder Nate Mezmer. It is the first camping festival to offer recreational dispensing and using of cannabis on site. The festival set up a designated area, called the Tree Lounge where those who are twenty-one and over or have a valid medical card could purchase a variety of products from the twenty plus dispensaries. Not only did the festival organizers set up a safe space where cannabis could be purchased and consumed, they created an activation that celebrated the culture around the plant by allowing farmers to interact with guests. 

“We are going to highlight the history and the culture and the small [cannabis] farmers of Humboldt and Mendocino counties,” Northern Nights co-founder Andrew Blap told Billboard. “You can come meet the farmers and see the people who have been growing weed for you for years. You never really put a face to the name, but now with legalization you can.”

In August 2019, Outside Lands became one of the largest festivals to allow on site marijuana sales and consumption. The festival was granted a temporary sales permit by the city of San Francisco. The festival previously had an activation area, Grass Lands that honored the plant  “Much the way that Wine Lands celebrates Napa and Sonoma as the leaders in U.S. wine production, Grass Lands will shine a light on the area’s importance as pioneers in the cannabis world” as Outside Lands co producer Rick Farman explains it. This year selling on site was also allowed allegedly to the tune of seven figures according to SF Gate. Each person could purchase up to seven grams of non-concentrate (flower) and two grams of concentrates (vape oil, edible, etc.). It seems like many patrons took full advantage of this with sales appearing very successful for the first year.

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“[O]ur mission is to normalize the industry, so having an activation at a major U.S. festival, and the first of its kind to allow cannabis sales and consumption — is an enormous breakthrough. It’s an awesome opportunity to display the creativity, innovation and actual production that goes into cannabis.” Jason Guillory, the marketing director NUG  (one of the companies who participated in Grass Lands), tells Rolling Stone

On the other side of the coin are festivals like Coachella. One of the largest music events in the United States still has a strict ban against marijuana consumption on site. Despite it being legal in the state of California, the festival takes place on private property which means the organizers can innact rules as they see fit. The main reason for the policy is because Philip Anschutz, the owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the company behind Coachella, is an advocate of cannabis prohibition. According to Freedom Leaf, he donated over $200,000 to anti pot organizations between 2015 and 2016. While other festivals may have begun to open their doors to the cannabis industry, it does not appear that Coachella will anytime soon. 

As more and more states continue to legalize cannabis, legal consumption and vending at live events will steadily rise as more organizers capitalize on the opportunity. Even though Coachella still has a strict no weed policy, that is certainly not stopping other major events and festivals. While it is still not federally legal, that has not stopped some organziers, especially those in California from hosting dispensaries on their grounds. However, it is about so much more than just being able to sell cannabis, it is about celebrating the culture around it and educating guests. Festivals like Northern Nights are working to create full blown health and wellness activations around legal marijuana. 

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