Following heavy opposition that led the 22nd District Agricultural Association to head back to the drawing boards regarding a proposed event around marijuana, the board officially approved a cannabis festival policy Nov. 14.
By implementing a clear-cut policy, the board, which runs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, aims to avoid the level of opposition it received last year from anti-marijuana activists and city officials in Del Mar and Solana Beach regarding the proposed GoodLife Seminar Series.
The event, then touted as the Goodlife Festival, was originally scheduled for Sept. 23, 2017 but was canceled by the fair board a few months prior out of fears of the DAA’s legal and professional liability in the face of federal law that continues to hold marijuana in a criminal light.
Following the board's contract approval, the event, now known as the GoodLife Seminar Series, is aimed to be an educational event where "no sales of any psychoactive cannabis products or any on-site use will be permitted," according to the policy.
The document states it is “a healthy discovery event celebrating alternative medicine and new ways to live a longer, healthier, pain-free life.” Further, the series “advocates the responsible use of all different alternatives to traditional pharmacology products,” according to to the policy.
The event is scheduled to take place May 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the fairgrounds, with 10 seminars on topics such as a usage, dosage and product guide to cannabis; edibles, tinctures and dabbing; information on CBD; and safe treatments for canine and feline friends. Exhibitors will also feature new products, services and professional advice on the “myriad of options available.”
Event promoters expect about 1,000 attendees, with admission costing between $20 and $25.
But naysayers have argued that if the event was truly educational rather than promotional, opponents should be able to also share about the harmful side effects of cannabis at the event. Some speakers on Nov. 14 said marijuana use has been connected to suicides, homicides and absent parents, among other negative consequences. Further, they said, the vendors are more like sales people rather than educators.
“This event is not about medicine," said Barbara Gordon, the adult supervisor for the local Friday Nights Live chapter, which aims to provide youth with social activities to steer them away from alcohol and drugs. "This board needs to think about what they’re considering. ... Do we always put profits over the welfare of young people?”
Others contested that by saying no "psychoactive" cannabis products are allowed, that might allow vendors to find loopholes for other marijuana items to be sold or used at the event. They also said that by allowing the event to happen on the fairgrounds, the fair board was promoting the seminar series.
Board President Steve Shewmaker argued that was not the case.
"We are simply renting space to them," he said, adding those in opposition are welcome to rent the facility for an event as well.
Further, Shewmaker said the board must approve all advertising and public relations for the event, according to the contract. He said the festival should be held and monitored for at least a year, and adjustments would be made accordingly.
But Lisa Barkett, the only board member who opposed the festival, argued people will automatically think the board promotes all events at the fairgrounds.
She said there is still a lack of research regarding cannabis and noted that medical doctors have testified against the event.
"I don’t know why we want to go down this route," she said. "There are too many unknowns. There are too many negatives on the other side. I just don’t understand why we’re getting involved in this.”
She said she wanted to put the health and the welfare of the community first. She and several speakers shared concerns that a festival on marijuana might confuse children and entice them to want to try cannabis.
But board member Don Mosier, who was recently appointed to the association, argued that idea alone would make the board hypocrites for allowing other events.
"If we're talking about the safety of youth, we wouldn't have wine and beer festivals," he said.
Mosier added that such an event could help people research marijuana.
"We've gotta start learning about how these products work," he said.