SANTA ROSA — Like gushing oil or the glint of gold, the advent of legal recreational marijuana brought 8,000 enthusiasts on Saturday to Sonoma County’s famed Emerald Cup harvest festival — a two-day conference, competition and weedfest.
To the throb of reggae and the sweet aroma of cannabis, vendors sold water systems, soil nutrients and advanced lighting systems, like the merchants who profited by selling supplies to gold miners. Startup companies pitched apps, software and marijuana delivery services.
Ticketholders — an ebullient crowd of entrepreneurs and farmers, investors and stoners, professional hucksters and weekend enthusiasts — patiently waited in line for nearly two hours to enter the gates of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
And they were the lucky ones: Saturday’s tickets sold out quickly. Late Saturday, however, tickets were still available for Sunday.
Some came to learn more about how to cash in on a fast-changing industry that offers hefty promise. Others came for the music. Most wanted to party and catch a buzz.
One pavilion featured seeds, flowers and concentrates and other souvenirs. An open “Vape Tent” hosted all of the edible makers. A large hall was dedicated to organic fertilizers and natural nutrients. While cannabis smoke wafted through the air, tobacco smokers were sequestered to a faraway corner.
A dedicated “215 Medical Marijuana Area” — offering fresh samples — was accessible to those with a medical marijuana patients with a card and valid identification.
In a panel discussion about government regulation, Lori Ajax, the chief of California’s new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, urged members of the fledgling industry to call her office with ideas and comments as it moves toward regulations that implement legal marijuana.
“We really do need your help and feedback as move forward towards regulations,” she said.
Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, is preparing regulations to implement Prop. 64’s legalization of recreational cannabis. She spoke at the Emerald Cup weedfest at Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
Lori Ajax, chief of California’s new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, is preparing regulations to implement Prop. 64’s legalization of recreational cannabis. She spoke Saturday at the Emerald Cup weedfest at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. (Lisa M. Krieger)
Facing the growing concern over pesticides, Brian Lehay, Director of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, urged the audience to learn more about chemicals. Pesticide use “will be the biggest challenge,” he said. “Growers of every other crop have very tight regulations around them…You should really start to figure them out.”
Fiona Ma, chairwoman of the California Board of Equalization, appealed to the growers, manufacturers and dispensaries to file taxes. “Everybody needs to pay your taxes,” she said. “We are more than happy to help you comply.”
“The challenge for this industry is that it has been in the shadows for so long,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Healdsburg Democrat..
“How do we engage them and how do we do it right?” he asked. “That’s why we’re here.”