Contract canceled for Cannabis Festival in Del Mar


After meeting harsh rebuke from the Del Mar Fairgrounds directors, organizers of what would have been the largest cannabis festival in San Diego have been sent scrambling back to the drawing board to write a new contract in time for the Sept. 23 event.

Except this time, Lawrence Bame, lead proprietor of the Goodlife Festival, will have to expressly state that cannabis consumption will not be welcome.

Bame, who has put on dozens of home and garden shows at the fairgrounds, signed a $12,000 contract at the end of March with the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds. But when the DAA’s board of directors caught wind more than a month later that a cannabis-centric event had been slated for the fairgrounds, they called for a special hearing to curry public input and hear from state officials.

More than 100 people packed into the Tuesday, May 30 hearing, filling the board room and overflowing into the courtyard.

Opponents wanted the festival shut down completely, appalled by the notion of marijuana being promoted on the fairgrounds marquee and the implicit message of pot-tolerance it would send to children. Supporters countered with assertions of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits, imploring the board for a chance to give San Diego’s cannabis community an educational opportunity on a scale it has never had.

Not one of the 50-plus speakers suggested a festival without cannabis.

And after four hours of impassioned testimony, the board’s discussion did not take up the morality of cannabis, but rather hinged on their personal and professional liability if they were to approve a contract that would so openly flout federal law.

Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California last year, expressly prohibits cannabis events and public consumption until new regulations come online in January. Medical marijuana laws passed more than 20 years ago — but not clarified until last year — allow patients to smoke cannabis where tobacco can be smoked.

“What you’re seeing here, I think, is a board that isn’t willing to take an undue risk,” board member David Watson told Bame. “But the board is not willing to say no absolutely. So if you were to revise your document to deal with the language about what you cannot bring to the festival to include marijuana, that would go a long way to reassuring this board when the contract comes back to us. We’re not saying no; we’re saying let’s rework it a little bit.”

The DAA board then voted 8-0 to rescind the contract and direct staff to work with Goodlife to draft a new contract with a more detailed description of the festival and that expressly discourages cannabis on site.

The decision left Bame at a loss for words.

“I don’t really know what happened,” he said immediately after. “To have a show about a product that isn’t at the show, it’s sort of like if I were to teach you French but there’ll be no French spoken. That’s a problem. I just don’t know. But I haven’t given up.”