SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Cannabis Cup SoCal will take place April 20-22 as scheduled, albeit without its namesake substance: cannabis.
In an official statement, show organizer High Times confirmed the San Bernardino City Council “block[ed], at the last minute, the lawful sale of Cannabis-based products during this weekend’s Cannabis Cup event at the National Orange Show Fairgrounds…”
Not only did the council block sales, but officials also threatened to shut down the show if even one of the 20,000 expected attendees so much as lights up.
Nevertheless, “the Cannabis Cup will proceed this weekend,” High Times Senior Vice President of Events Brian Rucker said. “As organizers, we will emphasize to vendors the continuing need to respect current laws and codes. This event is about much more than buying and selling marijuana. It celebrates the people, music and medicine that heal so many, who are part of a culture that unites millions. The movement will not be stopped.”
San Bernardino officials voted unanimously on Wednesday to deny High Times’s permit request, saying the company did not submit an application the required 60 days prior to the event. According to Rucker, the city encoded a requirement for municipal approval only eight days prior to denying the permit.
“Based on the Agriculture Incentive Zone laws, we did not pursue a city license until this week, as the city adopted an ordinance requiring municipal approval only eight days ago,” Rucker said. “Given the 60-day lead time required for approvalthe board’s basis for denying the application this put our brand in an impossible spot to meet all the required prerequisites.”
High Times also noted changes in regulatory procedures caused confusion by requiring additional permits from California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control. That, however, turned out not to be a problem, as bureau chief Lori Ajax relayed approval to the city via email.
“High Times has worked for years with San Bernardino city and county planners and leaders to help make our annual Cannabis Cup event there the state’s biggest celebration of legalization,” Rucker said. “The event has become a remarkable cultural celebration featuring amazing music, vendors of a wide range of products, food, and more. It’s also a major boost to the San Bernardino economy, drawing thousands of visitors from across the state and beyond.
“This year, new laws and provisions are impairing the rights of commerce and free expression for those lawful companies and citizens,” he continued. “These new provisions stand in stark defiance of the people’s will, as ratified by Prop. 64’s full legalization of cannabis use and sale in 2016.
“High Times has a long history of orderly, safe cultural celebrations that follow the law while allowing citizens to exercise their legal rights,” Rucker added. “The 44-year-old magazine was the first focused on the cannabis industry and has been sponsoring cannabis-related events nearly as long. We will continue to be a beacon of freedom and progress while respecting the laws of the State of California.”
The SoCal event isn’t the first Cannabis Cup with which High Times has experienced problems. In 2013, the event was chased out of Los Angeles and Glendale, California, by “local opposition,” including permit pushback from police and code-enforcement authorities. In 2016, organizers cancelled the signature 4/20 event in Colorado after officials in both Adams and Pueblo counties rejected permit applications. That event moved to San Bernardino, California, on short notice, and now is experiencing permit issues there. The 2017 Las Vegas Cannabis Cup was forced to proceed without cannabis after butting heads with federal law enforcement about distribution and consumption on-site.
One bright spot exists for this year’s Cannabis Cup SoCal, according to High Times spokesman Jon Cappetta: The prohibition on selling weed at this year’s event means the “215 area” — so called after Proposition 215, the 1996 California ballot measure that legalized the sale and use of medical cannabis in the state — will be open to all guests. In previous years, the area was cordoned off and only attendees with valid medical cards were allowed inside the boundaries. Thanks to the San Bernardino council members’ decision, everyone will be able to view and fondle non-cannabis wares offered by vendors.