California Bill Will Allow Pot Sales on County Fairgrounds

By Paul Gaita 06/23/17

The bill has received backlash from anti-legalization groups.

People attending the county fair.

The passage of Senate Bill 94 by the California Legislature effectively rewrote the rules for both medicinal marijuana licensing and recreational use by repealing the previous regulatory rules—the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act—and folding provisions of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act into a new act, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.

The new bill, which was attached to the state budget, allows for greater flexibility and ease for operators to acquire licensing to sell marijuana—including temporary licenses to sell their product at county fairs.

Under the bill's provisions, which were adopted on June 20, retailers or microbusinesses may apply for a state temporary event license that would authorize "onsite cannabis sales to, and consumption by, persons 21 years or older at a county fair or district agricultural association event" if the activities comply with several requirements. These include access to the area where cannabis or cannabis products is being smoked, vaporized and/or ingested, restricted to individuals 21 years of age or older; cannabis consumption is kept from view in public places or nonage-restricted areas; and sale of alcohol and tobacco is not allowed on the premises. 

"Think beer garden," said California Growers Association executive director Hezekiah Allen. "The business that applies for [the temporary event license] will have to meet every regulation and every requirement of the entire regulatory framework." Enforcing the rules will be given to the city in which the event takes place; as the bill notes, "the city shall assume complete responsibility for any regulatory function… within the city limits that would otherwise be performed by the county or any county officer or employee, including a county health officer." 

Response to the bill has already generated a backlash of sorts from anti-legalization groups. "I think that's just deplorable. We're just allowing greater exposure to those unhealthy items at a county fair," said Brook Lowe, a member of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM).

And the issue of whether county or city officials will choose to sell marijuana over dependably profitable items like alcohol may provide fuel for additional debate. "I think the regulatory agencies will deal with those questions in the next couple of months," said Allen. The bill, along with the entire state budget itself, still requires the signature of Governor Jerry Brown.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.