15,000 Cannabis Fans Come Together To Celebrate All About Weed At Emerald Cup In Sonoma County

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As he methodically rolled a large 8-gram marijuana cigarette right outside the gates of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Robert Zapien said he was amazed at how much of a part cannabis cultivation has become. part of the mainstream.

A resident of Shasta County, Zapien attended his first Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, Northern California’s largest annual cannabis festival, which is expected to attract 30,000 enthusiasts during the two-day event. A one-day Saturday admission ticket was $ 75.

He noticed the nearby Santa Rosa police car, which in years past would have triggered an instant reflex from Zapien to leave the scene.

“Compared to five or 10 years ago, we would have panicked,” Zapien said of the officer on duty as he prepared to smoke cigarettes with his friends.

The event had taken place six years in a row at the fairgrounds before being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. Participants were happy to be back under health protocols that included a vaccination check or rapid tests to confirm they were negative for the coronavirus.

The festival now looks like a county fair with food trucks; part of the music festival with members of the hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan scheduled to perform; and an educational seminar with a strong focus on public policies given the tax and regulatory issues that plague the industry.

But it is above all a large market for everything related to cannabis which has become significantly more commercial in recent years due to investor money that has poured into the industry since it was legalized for recreational use by California voters in 2016.

This retail influence could be seen at the booth of Stiiizy, a Los Angeles-based cannabis company that now has 20 dispensaries across the state and its own product line. The company had young women handing out promotional bags to attendees, and its booth at the fairground was more like a corporate tent at a PGA golf tournament.

Customers could shop for their products, inhale an Apple Mintz cannabis concentrate using a device called a dab rig, and then relax on the second-story deck to relax. The Apple Mintz product has been showcased to bring a euphoric and uplifting feel.

“This is my first big event like this. I have smoked cannabis most of my life, ”said William Valencia, Stiiizy Brand Ambassador. “It’s a great culture. “

This year’s festival featured a big change as organizers moved the awards program honoring the best varieties of marijuana and other cannabis products to Los Angeles for an event held in March. The move was aimed at gaining more media coverage in the nation’s entertainment capital. The organizers then renamed the Santa Rosa festival to the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball.

This weekend’s rally also came at a time when many of the state’s small producers are struggling amid what they claim to be exorbitant state and local taxes. They put pressure on elected leaders for a reduction in these levies. At the state level, growers face a cultivation tax that will increase on January 1. They also pay local cultivation taxes, which are not imposed on other agricultural products.

“In Sonoma County, you would be hard pressed to find a plot where you can grow cannabis,” said Joanna Cedar, board member for the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, a commercial group.

Echoing others involved in the local industry, she blamed the inflexibility of the county government, targeting zoning rules that have limited where new cannabis farms can go outside of boundaries. the city.

Many rural residents have called for these limits to be tighter, citing the impacts on their neighborhoods. But cannabis officials say regulations are hampering business growth.

“It’s really, really sad,” Cedar said.

The Harvest Ball established a special program this year for nearly 30 small producers across the state who were able to sell their harvest to visitors through a special distributor created especially for the event. State law does not allow them to sell directly to consumers.

The opportunity was a financial lifeline for Ben Grisso of Flower Lady Farms in Lake County, which grows on 10,000 square feet of land near Cobb. The farm was authorized to sell a total of 2 books to festival patrons over the two days.

“Retail prices are so much higher than wholesale, it’s potentially huge,” Grisso said. “Allowing us to retail any amount and get the kind of publicity and exposure is a godsend. “

The event continues on Sunday, when the doors open at noon for those with general admission tickets. For more information visit theemeraldcup.com.

You can contact Editor-in-Chief Bill Swindell at 707-521-5233 or [email protected] On Twitter @BillSwindell.


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