Orange County fairgrounds officials have agreed to allow the sale of glass pipes, smoking devices and certain CBD products, advertising and sponsorships — and could soon wade into the waters of cannabis events and even consumption on the Costa Mesa property.
Board members decided Thursday to loosen parts of a cannabis events policy adopted in 2018 that prohibited vendors from selling glass pipes, bongs and other items formerly considered as marijuana paraphernalia at events, swap meets and the annual O.C. Fair.
They also agreed to allow for the sponsorships, sales and advertising of products containing cannabidiol (CBD), derived from cannabis plants, so long as they contain less than .3% of THC, the psychoactive compound found in the plant.
Directors were asked to potentially revise the policy by members of a board-occupied Governance Committee, which also requested direction on allowing actual cannabis and cannabis-related events and sponsorships onto the fairgrounds.
OCFEC Executive Director Michele Richards, speaking at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, explained several county fairgrounds throughout California — even those acting as state-run district agricultural associations — already allow such events on site.
For example, a Harvest Ball cannabis and music festival took place last December in Sonoma County, while the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock is organizing a similar “Dazed on the Green” festival in September. This summer, the California State Fair will feature a first-ever cannabis growing competition.
“Where we were as policy makers when this policy started versus where we were a year ago to really where we were at the beginning of this month — so many things have changed, and we’re on a completely different plane,” said Director Ashleigh Aitken, who wondered whether to repeal the entire cannabis event policy.
Some directors expressed a willingness to move in the direction of change, as a federal proposal calling for the nationwide decriminalization of marijuana and its removal from the list of controlled substances inches toward the goal posts.
Melahat Rafiei, who described herself as a regular cannabis consumer, encouraged fellow board members to be open about the possibility of family-friendly cannabis events. She said the city of Santa Ana is slated next week to discuss allowing lounges where people can consume cannabis.
“These events happen all throughout the state, and they’re all revenue generators for sure,” Rafiei said. “This is coming, and I want us to be part of the process and not sitting back as it passes us by.”
Director Nick Kovacevich, also chief executive of cannabis products company Greenlane Holdings, compared cannabis to alcohol, wondering why one was allowed on the grounds while the other was not.
Other board members were concerned allowing cannabis on the fairgrounds could tarnish the site’s family-friendly reputation and create conflict in a space situated so closely to schools, parks and places where minors congregate.
“I struggle with this whole concept,” said Barbara Bagneris. “I don’t have a problem with the sale of glass pipes and smoking devices, as long as they’re not used on the property. “[But] I am concerned about cannabis-related sponsorships and cannabis-related events, especially since we are so close to schools.”
Board members asked Richards and her staff to create a set of guidelines that might help them better imagine how cannabis events and sponsorships might be regulated and to conduct a community survey to gauge public opinion on the matter.
The panel agreed to revisit the discussion at their regular meeting in June.
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