A disagreement between Ferndale police and a Humboldt County marijuana competition over the allowances under Proposition 64 has led to the event making a last-minute change of venue to the dissatisfaction of the coordinators.

The Humboldt County Cup was set to take place on Jan. 21 at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale, but coordinators announced Wednesday that it will now be at the Mateel Community Center in Southern Humboldt.

Cup founder and director Matt Smith-Caggiano said the fallout of having to switch venues within three weeks has been “an absolute mess.”

“Even though we may have the right to conduct the event at the fairgrounds and even though the (Humboldt County Fair Association) potentially wanted to do that, we’re being held hostage by the city of Ferndale,” Smith-Caggiano told the Times-Standard on Thursday.

The change has led to vendors cancelling, tickets being refunded, the number of attendees being cut nearly in half because of space limitations, and last-minute insurance changes that will compound other major alterations to the event’s planned return, Smith-Caggiano said.

The Ferndale Police Department’s concerns, Smith-Caggiano said, were based on hearsay as well as the stigmatization of marijuana that he thought had been left behind after the passage of Proposition 64.

As to why he feels this way, Smith-Caggiano said he heard a citizen complaint over reggae music potentially being played at the cup’s planned open mic. He also said he learned of past concerns of violence and alcohol use raised by Ferndale police regarding a 2014 rap concert that was set to be held at the fairgrounds. The concert was eventually moved to the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds.

“It doesn’t seem the law really matters and it’s more based off of opinion,” he said.

The Cup had been in negotiations with the Humboldt County Fairgrounds since spring 2016 to host the event. Fair association General Manager Richard Conway said Thursday that losing the event was “unfortunate,” but noted that the scope of the event was different than what was initially discussed and that it posed a challenge in complying with city regulations on marijuana use and sales.

“We certainly were interested in working with them and trying to help them put the event on and will look to see what we can do in the future,” Conway said.

Ferndale Police Chief Bret Smith was consulted by the fair board about the Cup, which Conway said is done for every event. Smith found the cup’s planned events could be out of compliance with California’s recreational marijuana legalization measure Proposition 64 as well as city code.

Smith was unavailable for comment Thursday, but provided the Times-Standard his concerns about the Humboldt County Cup last month.

Under Proposition 64 as well as the Ferndale and county codes, smoking is prohibited in public places or facilities, and the fairgrounds are public, Smith said.

Proposition 64 also prohibits smoking within 1,000 feet of school property, and Ferndale High School borders the fairgrounds. Conway also said part of the fairgrounds are leased to Ferndale High School.
Ferndale also prohibits dispensing marijuana, Smith said.

Smith-Caggiano — who is the executive director of the Humboldt County chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — said the Ferndale Police Department never cited any legal codes to back up their concerns despite requests for them to do so.

The Humboldt County Cup in partnership with Humboldt NORML drafted its own responses to Smith’s concerns citing language from Proposition 64 and other state laws that Smith-Caggiano said address Smith’s concerns.

“Unfortunately, the Ferndale Police Department was not persuaded,” Smith-Caggiano said. “They did not say why.”

Moving the venue from the Ferndale fairgrounds to the Mateel Community Center will come with many changes. The community center’s General Manager Justin Crellin said they do not allow marijuana sales, which was originally proposed at the Ferndale location.

The Cup does not require attendees to have a medical marijuana recommendation to get in, but those who had wanted to access the “on-site medicating smoking area” would have needed to be at least 21 years old to smoke recreational cannabis or at least 18 years old with a medical cannabis recommendation in order to comply with state laws.

Smoking is not allowed inside the community center, but Smith-Caggiano said a medicating smoking area will be set up outside.

Smith-Caggiano said the event was expected to draw in about 2,000 people, but he said that will now have to be halved due to the change in venue. He said this is more unfortunate because the Cup plans to donate 10 percent of its proceeds to local charities.

If You Go

What: The Humboldt County Cup

When: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Jan. 21

Where: Mateel Community Center, 59 Rusk Lane, Redway

More information: humboldtcountycup.com