High Times successfully hosted what it’s calling the “second legal cannabis consumption event in the nation’s history” over the weekend (June 2-3) with the Cannabis Cup in Sonoma. The recreational cannabis event was state-sanctioned in Northern California and solidifies High Times Productions status as an early pioneer just months after legalization was implemented in the Golden State.
The High Times Cannabis Cup NorCAL 2018 held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds follows the Central Valley Cannabis Cup in Sacramento held in May, which made history as the first legal cannabis consumption event and included performances from Ms. Lauryn Hill and Lil Wayne.
“Our Central Valley Cannabis Cup in Sacramento was an enormous success,” said CEO of High Times, Adam Levin. “For the first time, our community was allowed to invite all of its participants of legal age – not just those with a medical card. This was a monumental step in the legalization movement.”
Levin explained that the High Times team has been working closely with California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the agency tasked with regulating the state’s growing cannabis industry. During the 2016 General Election, California voters legalized recreational marijuana use which went into effect on January 1, 2018.
Medical marijuana use has been legal in California since 1996, but the proposition made it legal for recreational use for anyone 21 years of age or older in private homes or at a business licensed for on-site marijuana consumption. The proposition also allowed local government to “reasonably regulate” the personal growth, possession, and use of marijuana plants.
“In years past, having a marijuana event came down to the town and the governing bodies of that jurisdiction- a city council, a mayor’s office or both. Now, with the new statewide laws and regulatory mandates, the bar to do a legal marijuana event is higher than ever and requires more of event producers,” said Levin, who described his events as “the first officially state-sanctioned cannabis marketplace and event in the nation’s history.”
High Times has taken a more active interest in live events since it was sold to an investment group, Oreva Capital, in June of 2017. The investment group that included musician and Bob Marley’s son, Damian Marley, stated that the company would be moving from a counter-culture magazine to a modern media enterprise after four more states legalized recreational marijuana use in the 2016 election.
In the sale, High Times Holding Corp. was sold to Oreva Capital for roughly $70 million in June 2017 and in July of the same year they announced a plan of going public through a definitive merger agreement reached with Origo Acquisition Corporation. The company has plans to list on NASDAQ according to SEC fillings.
“We are throwing huge concerts already and this is just the beginning,” said Levin who has staged shows with Nas, Lil Wayne, 2 Chains, Rick Ross, and Lupe Fiasco and says the cannabis industry has been driven by “an explosion in interest” and caters to a “much bigger tent of people that openly identify with the cannabis lifestyle.”
The next Cannabis Cup is currently scheduled for this weekend (June 9-10) in Clio, Michigan where medical marijuana is legal. The event will include performances from Machine Gun Kelly, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti, and requires attendees be aged 18+ with a valid medical marijuana license. People can apply for a license at the Cup and Michigan is a reciprocal state, so attendees with out-of-state licenses are welcome.
“We have an amazing team with a great deal of experience putting these types of events together, and we’re actively increasing the number of events, and the locations, that we hold them in,” Levin said.
High Times has also partnered with Mateel Community Center for this year’s Reggae on the River festival held in Garberville, California which is part of Humboldt County. The cannabis icon will use the partnership to expand its live offerings to broader music events that are not explicitly tied to the legal cannabis industry.
“We’d of course love to open up the Reggae on the River event to include legal cannabis consumption,” said Levin, adding “policymakers are working now on solutions that would ease guidelines that could make that a reality as cannabis and reggae have always gone hand in hand.”
Legal recreational consumption has not yet been confirmed for the August event.
While High Times is currently the only production company that has held recreational cannabis events, there are others working on their entrance into the market. The Emerald Cup, which is one of the largest and longest running cups in existence, has also been working closely with the Bureau of Cannabis Control to launch its own recreational consumption event.
Red Light Management’s Coran Capshaw has invested in the Emerald Cup and in April announced a partnership between his promotion company Starr Hill Presents and Emerald Cup for Northern Nights, which takes place on the banks of the South Fork Eel River in the heart of the Emerald Triangle (California’s weed-growing Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties).
The partnership is looking to bring a legal cannabis component to the music and camping festival by 2019. Northern Nights has previously had a weed component, but it has strictly been for those with medical marijuana cards.
“We are happy that California finally has a path to compliance for the cannabis industry and the events space specifically,” said Tim Blake, Founder of Emerald Cup. “We are looking forward to the day when cannabis consumption and sales are legal at all concerts and special events around the world.”
As High Times, Emerald Cup, and other cannabis-related event producers continue to make recreational use at concerts a reality, Levin admits that he doesn’t see it becoming a concert industry standard just yet.
“We think eventually marijuana will be more broadly accepted and will continue to make its way into the mainstream for events. Most concerts already have a no bust zone where people are allowed to consume without getting arrested,” Levin said. “But calling legal consumption an industry standard is difficult thing to forecast given the current legislation around community gatherings involving Cannabis. If you’re including Cannabis, you’re no longer allowed to sell alcohol, which is a big money maker for event producers and venues.”
Levin added, “For us it was an easy decision to make, but we’ll be interested to see how the rest of the event industry responds. We have a feeling people are going to see the benefits of including this peaceful plant over the dangers of alcohol, but we can’t make those decisions for them.”