Music Festivals, Legal Cannabis Sing a Hit Duet in 2019Elise McDonoughJuly 16, 2019
At least if you judge by the ubiquitous clouds of cannabis smoke that rise over the crowd at everything from reggae fests to country music jamborees.
But no matter how much they’d like to, the production companies running the $10 billion a year US music events industry still can’t openly condone cannabis use—even in places where it’s legal for adults to light up in private.
That’s changing, however, at least in California, which remains the only adult use legalization state that explicitly licenses cannabis events to include on-site sales and consumption.
So pack up your car, assemble your crew, and get on the road with this guide to the West Coast’s best fests.
For festivals lagging behind and lacking licensed shops and lounges, we’ve included some top-rated nearby dispensaries where you can stock up on local favorites before pitching your tents.
Tickets: $260 (three-day pass)
With a stellar lineup including Zhu, Big Wild, Desert Hearts, and Berner, this EDM festival is the first major overnight camping festival to feature an on-site temporary dispensary with legal cannabis sales. Located four hours north of San Francisco in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, Northern Nights has gotten bigger and better every year, first carving out space for cannabis brands to promote themselves, and now integrating a spacious, chill consumption area called the Tree Lounge. Float in the Eel River, stretch at a yoga class, and dance the night away in the redwoods at this gem of a festival.
“We’ve been working towards this for many years now,” says Northern Nights Compliance Director Peter Huson, “this is the final step to allow everyone to legally consume and purchase.”
Creating special zones for commercial transactions requires local and state licenses, plus partnering with a cannabis retailer or distribution company to track and secure the inventory per state regulations. Event organizers must also prevent alcohol consumption from occurring in the same space.
Straddling the Eel River, with part of the event site in Humboldt County, and part of the event in Mendocino County, Northern Nights is uniquely positioned to offer alcohol sales in Mendocino and legal herb in Humboldt. Crazy.
“We’re excited to work with The Green Door and Meadow to help facilitate the legal cannabis sales at Northern Nights,” says Jessica Cosca, director of marketing for Filigreen Distribution.
With over 20 brands available on site plus a spacious lounge area where people can relax and enjoy those cannabis products, Northern Nights is hopefully an example of what all future festivals will look like.
While there’s plenty of weed at the festival, you can also make it a road trip and stop on the way up from San Francisco to visit these interesting shops.
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Tickets: $165 (single day)
Of all the nation’s annual summer mega-fests, Outside Lands comes closest to touching the plant. This year, their cannabis section Grasslands expands, and may offer THC.
Drawing 200,000 people to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, this sprawling festival attracts top talent including Paul Simon, Childish Gambino, Lil Wayne, and Blink-182.
The festival debuted the Grasslands cannabis celebration area in 2018 to complement areas like Winelands and Beerlands. But you couldn’t sell or sample anything, which confused festival attendees. While big brands like Flow Kana and Kiva created great booths and dispensed THC-free samples, the full realization of Grasslands remains to be seen.
This year, organizers are racing to make on-site sales a reality.
Stock up on edibles, prerolls, and vape carts at nearby dispensaries before you venture into Golden Gate Park, and hopefully Grasslands will be offering more than a contact high this year.
Closest Dispensaries to Outside Lands:
- Harvest on Geary—If you’re coming from the north side of the park, Harvest on Geary is a classy shop with a well-curated menu. Choose a pack of mini-prerolls or a discreet edible to enhance your day at Outside Lands!
- SPARC-Haight St.—Wander through the Haight before heading over to the festival, and pick up eco-friendly biodynamic cannabis varieties from SPARC.
- Caliva; Kind Courier—Restock and pre-game with the help of licensed local couriers—also legal in California. Peruse online menus and order to your address (ages 21 and up, with valid ID).
Tickets: Free (donations encouraged)
Now in its 28th year, Hempfest is a cherished cultural institution that preserves the hippie values that propelled the cannabis movement to mainstream acceptance. Billed as the world’s largest weed rally, free speech event, and community celebration, Hempfest features four stages of music and speakers, bringing over 200,000 people to experience three days of freedom in Myrtle Edwards Park.
Washington law prevents licensed cannabis consumption, so it isn’t technically allowed at the “protestival,” but you’ll find plenty of people lighting up regardless. Beware of illicit sales of brownies, you never know how much THC could be in there!
Run completely by an army of over 800 volunteers, Hempfest promotes revolutionary activism and free speech dedicated to expanding cannabis access and educating the public. Walking a mile through the park, grokking the diversity and creativity of the cannabis community in its full-fledged glory, is an experience everyone should have at least once!
Port Townsend, Washington
Tickets: $209 (three-day pass)
New from Sasquatch! founder Adam Zacks, the Thing festival adds comedy, podcasts, and yoga to an eclectic musical lineup including Jeff Tweedy, the Violent Femmes, and De La Soul, plus many others performing on three stages. Set on Puget Sound at historic Fort Worden State Park, this beautiful site showcases the best of Port Townsend.
Eat a low-dose edible and groove to the sounds of Khruangbin, get lost in a trippy inflatable sculpture called the Architects of Air’s Luminarium, or immersive yourself in hipster weirdness like a live reading of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” a nostalgic Napoleon Dynamite reunion, or listen to Macaulay Culkin muse about life. This mind-expanding mash-up of current culture and cutting-edge expression will delight your senses and inspire your inner child.
Closest Dispensaries to Thing Festival:
- Reefer Den in Port Townsend—Boasting an impressive menu selection, the Reefer Den lives up to its name. Peruse over 500 cannabis products and select some Moxey Mints or Spot Chocolates for a discreet high.
- Better Buds in Port Hadlock—Find top-shelf buds from Falcanna at Kipsap Peninsula’s largest dispensary, along with a respectable selection of vape carts, gummies, and candies.
- Chimacum Cannabis Co. in Chimacum—Stop in and check out this beautiful, welcoming dispensary on your way into town. Get 15% off by “testing the limit” and buying the legal limit in any product category.
More Music Festivals of 2019 With Cannabis Vibes:
- Capitol Hill Block Party 2019, Seattle, July 19; with Phantogram
- KMEL Summer Jam 2019, Oakland, California, July 28; with Miguel
- Lollapalooza, Chicago, Aug. 1-4; with Lil Wayne
- HARD Summer Music Festival 2019, Fontana, California, Aug. 3-4; with Major Lazer
- Power of Flower Music and Cannabis Festival, Santa Cruz, California, Aug. 10; with Dirty Dozen Brass Band
- San Jose Jazz Summerfest, San Jose, California, Aug. 9-11; with The Family Stone
- Afropunk Festival, Brooklyn, New York, Aug. 24-25; with Santigold
What’s your favorite music festival to pair with ganja? Let the Leafly community know in the comments below.