Grass Lands Haunted by Its Own Future Potential

Outside Lands’ brand-new cannabis area made the most of its limited options, but most visitors still left wanting more.


Even if California’s laws have never served as much of a deterrent for concertgoers sneaking pot into a venue, it’s appealing to casually stroll over to a tent and buy a pre-rolled joint with the same ease of buying a Heineken or a slice of pizza. Unfortunately, as Outside Lands attendees who visited Grass Lands this past weekend learned, such pleasures are not yet a reality.

While the industry awaits legislation permitting the sale of recreational cannabis at public events, current rules prohibit such actions. Assembly Member Bill Quirk’s AB 2020 — which would give local jurisdictions the power to issue temporary licenses — might be a possible solution, but given the glacial pace of bureaucracy, the industry’s hands remain tied for now.

With these limitations in mind, popular cannabis brands like PAX, Kiva, and CannaCraft gamely did their best to offer what essentially amounted to an educational fair. A greenhouse sponsored by the delivery service Ona.Life looked notably similar to a dispensary, with various products on display (but safely secured under glass). The concept? Festivalgoers could arrange for a delivery to a residence of their choosing — something most interested parties likely registered for long ago.

Vaporizer company PAX borrowed from the scene by offering custom engravings on devices either purchased at their booth or that people might have brought into the festival in their pockets. With options that included etchings of Sutro Tower, the Land’s End labyrinth, a map of Golden Gate Park, or Outside Lands’ iconic windmill, that was arguably the best souvenir of the festival.

A PAX representative guessed that the split between visitors who knew the brand and those who did not was roughly even. The numbers for edible company Kiva skewed far more toward the uninitiated, with co-founder Kristi Knoblich estimating that upwards of 80 percent of those who swung by the Kiva tent for unmedicated samples had never heard of the company before.

Elsewhere, other industry representatives privately noted that while they felt an obligation to represent their business at such a large-scale event, the fact that no one could buy cannabis — or even sample it — truly put a damper on the area’s full potential.

“Instead of Grass Lands, they should call it Blue Balls,” one longtime executive quipped.

On the positive side, several efforts at educating the public appeared well-executed. Curious souls could inhale a selection of terpenes, while Jetty Extracts offered the chance to shoot the shit with a budtender. While many readers of this column may scoff at the idea that someone would need to go to a music festival to chat up a weed expert, the fact remains that many potential consumers are still hesitant to step foot inside a licensed dispensary. Thus, Grass Lands offered a risk-free way to learn a little more.

Grass Lands’ problem may be that people already familiar with cannabis see it as a tease when in fact, its best value isn’t as an avenue to cater to the converted, but as a place for those still lurking in the shadows of ancient stigmas and aggressive propaganda to step into the light.

Certainly, the ultimate goal is to see a music festival sell cannabis to anyone of age who wants it, but to dismiss Grass Lands 2018 for being unable to do that yet is perhaps a bit harsh.

Still, you can’t fault people for rolling their eyes at Outside Lands’ promise of becoming the “first major U.S. music festival to embrace & engage cannabis culture.” Maybe that statement is true, but until the star attraction is a feasible component, no festival can truly claim the title. For all the dollars that pour in — from craft beer to blankets to sashimi — there is still one kind of green sorely missing from Ranger Dave’s annual soiree in the woods.

Perhaps, in 2019, he’ll be able to make good on his word, but for now, the only color on everyone’s minds still appears to be blue.

Zack Ruskin covers news, culture, and music for SF Weekly. |  @zackruskin

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