A sign for the Humboldt County Cup sits near the northern tip of Broadway. (Shaun Walker, The Times-Standard)

Northern California

Humboldt pot competition up in the air thanks, in part, to Prop. 64

The second Humboldt County Cup marijuana competition is up in the air after authorities said the event conflicts with both local and, ironically, new state laws created by the marijuana legalization measure Proposition 64.

Event organizers are challenging the decision, with a lawsuit possible. And the outcome of such a potential case could set a statewide precedent, according to Humboldt County Cup founder Matt Smith-Caggiano.

“The Humboldt County Cup is being considered the first major contested case for the public consumption of cannabis in California after Prop. 64, setting a precedent for human rights and public consumption rights to medicinal/adult use of cannabis,” he said in an email.

The competition is set to take place Jan. 21 at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds, with judging in categories such as indoor and outdoor grown, sativa and indica dominant strains, and others.

“I have four issues with what they propose,” Ferndale Police Chief Bret Smith said.

The first issue is that under Prop. 64, there is no smoking allowed in public, and the fairgrounds are public. This is compounded by the second issue: County and city ordinances also don’t allow smoking in public places or facilities. The third problem is smoking isn’t allowed within 1,000 feet of school property and Ferndale High School borders the fairgrounds.

“There’s still kids there playing tennis on the weekend, playing basketball, whatever,” Smith said.

The last issue is that Ferndale doesn’t allow the dispensing marijuana, he said.

“In the city limits, you can’t sell, give away and so forth,” Smith said.

Humboldt County Fair general manager Richard Conway said he and Smith recently spoke with event organizers and the fair has been in discussions with organizers about the competition since spring.

“I think the scope of the event changed a bit from our initial meeting,” Conway said.

The event is sponsored by Humboldt National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Smith-Caggiano said.

“Working in coordination with NORML affiliates, we have prepared a legal defense in favor of the Humboldt County Cup event regarding distance to schools, public consumption and local jurisdiction controls,” he stated. “This draft document was not intended for the public at this time and we were hoping to resolve the issue without public scare tactics or a media circus that would have a negative impact on our community’s faith when coming out of the shadows and into the light.

“… Our goal is to comply with the vote of the people for cannabis rights that was set forth medicinally 20 years ago and now for adult use, while at the same time respecting those against cannabis medicinal or adult use,” he continued.

According to the event website, a medical marijuana recommendation is not required to attend, but attendees must be at least 21 years old or be 18 years old with a medical card to enter the “on-site medicating smoking area,” in accordance with state law. Attendees may also bring cannabis and “smoking accessories” to the event.

Both Smith and Conway said they work closely together to ensure all events in fairground facilities follow applicable laws.

“Once they gave me that information, it appeared inconsistent with state law and some local ordinances,” Smith said about the event’s plans.

Smith said he talked with organizers about possibly narrowing the scope of what would be going on during the event or changing the location as options.

“They’re aware of it, they understand and they are considering other options,” Conway said of event organizers.

“Humboldt County has a great opportunity for our community to move forward and improve our social and economic problems,” Smith-Caggiano stated. “Humboldt County Cup tourism is increasing for our local area, jobs are being created, people have contacted us planning vacations and purchasing airline tickets from Boston, Florida and Jamaica to name a few.”

Tickets for the event were still on sale Friday at humboldtcountycup.com.

This story was first published on Times-Standard.com.