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Yes, You Can Buy Weed at Clusterfest

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On Friday at Clusterfest, spirits weren’t the only thing getting high.

Now in its third year, the collaboration between promoters Superfly, Comedy Central, and Another Planet Entertainment offers an eclectic selection of world-class comedy and musical acts set smack dab in the middle of the city at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (and the surrounding Civic Center Plaza). With headliners like Jon Stewart, Dave Chappelle, and The Lonely Island, Clusterfest has made a name for itself since debuting in 2017 thanks to inventive bookings and its unique emphasis on laughs.

While festivals like the High Times Cannabis Cup, the Emerald Cup, and the (possibly defunct) Chalice Cup have each sold cannabis on-site in California, all of those events are chiefly focused on weed. That means this year’s edition of Clusterfest may also be remembered for possibly being the first major U.S. festival not themed around cannabis to offer a viable way for those in attendance to purchase pot.

The key to this operation’s success is, in large part, geography.

By good fortune, the Clusterfest grounds happen to end at the back door of a dispensary. An upscale spot with mid-century decor, Moe Green’s is the second project from the team behind Barbary Coast (another popular dispensary in the city). The location also features a posh consumption lounge, making it possible for Clusterfest to offer an innovative way to accommodate cannabis consumers without running afoul of the law.

Though San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis recently suggested that they may issue their first temporary cannabis event permit this fall, there is currently no way to legally sell licensed cannabis at an event within the city’s jurisdiction. However, it is permissible to allow guests to enter a separate area adjacent to the festival to purchase cannabis from properly licensed sellers. At Clusterfest, this means a gap between the porta-potties with a metal detector and several security personnel is actually a means of entering Moe Green’s through the rear, which is normally not an entrance. Provided guests purchase one item from Moe Green’s, they get a wristband to get back inside the festival.

According to staff at Moe Green’s, business was steady but not overwhelming early Friday evening. Part of the light traffic may be due to the fact that Clusterfest officials have opted to downplay the fact that visiting a dispensary is even an option. There appears to be no mention of this opportunity on the official Clusterfest website, and the festival’s social media feeds haven’t noted it, either. It may be the case that a soft launch was preferred, but the lone sign advertising the entryway to Moe Green’s could easily be mistaken for a simple advertisement.

Regardless, the fact that Moe Green’s has a consumption lounge means it is now possible for those at Clusterfest to visit the dispensary, buy a cannabis product, consume it, and then return to the festival grounds. If this all seems a tad convoluted, that’s because it is.

While San Francisco deserves credit for attempting to bridge the gap by implementing a temporary cannabis event permit, the fact is that it remains extremely difficult — if not outright impossible — for festivals in states with regulated cannabis sales to take advantage of the gold mine in front of them. Some, like San Francisco’s Outside Lands, have opted for a more educational approach while they wait for firmer ground to form. Others, like Coachella, have made it clear they want nothing to do with cannabis (yet).

Thus, Clusterfest is almost undoubtedly the first U.S. festival backed by some of the music industry’s most prolific promoters to provide a way for guests to buy cannabis. It may not be long before the exception becomes the rule, but for now, the partnership of Moe Green’s and Clusterfest represents a watershed moment in the rapidly evolving history of legalized cannabis.

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Zack Ruskin

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