That’s Fair Out Man! : California County Fairs to Sell Cannabis

A Lit Day at The Fair

When you think of a county fair, you probably think of screaming kids, fried food, terrifying rides and endless carnival games. They’re a throwback to your childhood, when things were simpler, and a deep-fried Twinkie sounded like an awesome idea instead of a guarantee for heartburn. Well, in 2018, a day at the fair could get a little more interesting. If the California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown have their way, you might be able to get fried at county fairs in a whole new way: with marijuana booths.

No longer will alcohol be the only way for adults to survive the craziness that is a fairground. Right after you buy your kids a pile of cotton candy, you’ll be able to buy yourself some Pineapple Express.

California Cannabis Fair
Cotton Candy Goals

It’s all thanks to Senate Bill 94, which covers everything from standards for organic marijuana to home deliveries and allowing samples at county fairs. It’s the result of months of negotiation between lawmakers and marijuana businesses, and combines the state’s new recreational marijuana law with the current medical marijuana program.

“No longer will alcohol be the only way for adults to survive the craziness that is a fairground. Right after you buy your kids a pile of cotton candy, you can buy yourself some Pineapple Express.”

The Bill, which is attached to California’s budget—including $118 million to pay for startup costs—was signed by both legislatures and the governor, and allows for cannabis businesses to apply for temporary licenses to sell their products on fairgrounds. One stipulation is that the fair must be state or county-owned. For example, the law wouldn’t apply to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, or other venues that are not state-owned.

That’s not to say that the next state fair you attend is going to have a selection of cannabis booths with bright signs selling pot right next to the corn dogs. Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Association, told CBS News: “The business that’s applying for it will have to meet every regulation and every requirement of the entire regulatory framework. They’ll have to insure that only folks over twenty-one have access to the area where the cannabis is present, and that the area isn’t even visible.” Even at the county fair, marijuana businesses would need to meet state-mandated protections, which leaves some gray area for interpretation.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk – California’s Oldest Outdoor Amusement Park

Smoke a Frosty Bud or Sip a Cool Bud Lite?

For example, according to Prop 64, in locations where cannabis is consumed, access must be prohibited to persons under 21, and sale or consumption of alcohol and tobacco isn’t allowed. Does this mean that fairgrounds would have to choose between selling cannabis and selling alcohol? And where would fair attendees be allowed to consume? Would a special tent have to be erected to keep consumption private and out of the public eye?

There are a lot of questions, but even still, many people are excited by the possibilities. Lee, who works at Countryside Meds, a medical marijuana dispensary, told ABC 7: “If there’s a place to medicate, but out of public view, I think people would literally love that.”

However, not everyone is excited. The CEOs of the Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Madera county fairs had more cautious responses. In fact, John Alkire, CEO of The Big Fresno Fair, told The Fresno Bee: “The Big Fresno Fair has no plans at this time to allow any cannabis-related vendors at the annual Big Fresno Fair, nor hold or permit cannabis-related events at the Fresno Fairgrounds as part of our year-round rental facility operations.”

And Pamela Fyock, CEO of Tulare County Fair, echoed Alkire’s sentiments. “It has the potential to bring a lot of problems to the fair,” she explained. “We work very hard to make sure this is a safe, family-friendly environment.”

Despite opposition, the bill opens up some exciting opportunities for cannabis consumers and businesses. “It is onsite sales and consumption. So think beer garden,” Hezekiah Allen told CBS News.

California Cannabis Fair
Santa Monica, California

Recreational cannabis sales are expected to begin on January 2, 2018, and we’re all waiting anxiously to see how the industry rules and regulations pan out.


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