Rumors were flying this summer: Would Outside Lands — the crown jewel of the Bay Area’s festival scene — be the first event to obtain one of the city’s newly established temporary cannabis event permits?
Marisa Rodriguez, director for San Francisco’s Office of Cannabis, told SF Weekly in June that the city was hoping to issue its first event permit (which allows for cannabis sales and temporarily waives local anti-smoking ordinances) this fall, but in recent weeks, chatter began to circulate that officials with Outside Lands were making a strong push to get things done in time for the festival this past weekend.
Their successful efforts, which were confirmed less than 72 hours before the first musicians were scheduled to hit the stage, resulted in this year’s greatly improved version of Grass Lands. Located near the festival’s main stage, the area required that guests prove their age (only those ages 21 and up were legally allowed) before granted entry to a magical forest realm of sativas, sweet aromas, and smiling faces.
Last year’s inaugural Grass Lands where exhibitors could show off but not make sales, and celebrants could look but not touch, served as a dry run for 2019’s fully realized vision. Many of the area’s most popular cannabis brands — including PAX, Flow Kana, and Legion of Bloom — were represented with booths, and in some cases, clever activations like the vintage gas station vibe of concentrate-maker Moxie.
“It was thrilling to be able to sell and consume cannabis at a major music festival,” says Moxie’s Josh Karchmer. “Grasslands was a little community within the [Outside Lands] community where everyone from novices to connoisseurs were able to learn about cannabis and enjoy new products. The big hit for us were our new single-serve concentrate shots. Most people that bought them had never dabbed before and we were able to help educate them about concentrates.”
Things may not have been perfect, but overall the mood was one of joy and wonder.
“There were a few bumps the first day,” says Tyler Cooke, edibles department director for NUG, “but everyone worked well together to create a successful event.”
Ensuring a strong focus on education was of pivotal importance for organizers, given the high volume of cannabis newcomers who visited Grass Lands with skeptical curiosity. Signs with pot factoids were posted throughout the area, and per California law, no alcohol was served (or permitted) within the boundaries of Grass Lands.
Kristi Knoblich Palmer, co-founder of the popular Bay Area edibles brand Kiva, said keeping consumers informed at Grass Lands was crucial.
“We have that responsibility no matter where our products are being sold,” Palmer says, “but especially in a place like this, so we’re leading with our education team at the front counter who can answer questions. We’ve also got printed guides on how to consume in this type of setting. It’s engaging and it shows you the dosing and effect from 2.5 mg all the way up to 15 mg.”
Having something historic like Grass Lands occur in San Francisco felt fitting.
“It’s pretty incredible, but San Francisco has always shown itself to be very progressive when it comes to cannabis regulation and reform. This is first-of-its-kind, history-making stuff right here.”
In addition to the sales of cannabis products in a myriad of forms, the space also played host to everything from a pot cooking demo with drag queen Laganja Estranja and Bong Appétit’s Vanessa Lavorato to a gourd-slash-bong carving contest. Grass Lands also proved to be a fertile launching ground for new companies, like the full-line offerings of Binske.
Along with his brother, Alex Pasternak has grown his business into, in the company’s estimation, the world’s largest marijuana brand. He says it made perfect sense to use this new cannabis component of Outside Lands to make their California debut. It’s likely many more will soon follow suit in the years to come.
“Launching at Outside Lands was an absolute must,” Pasternak says. “It’s not just another music festival that’s selling random slices of pizza and beer that you’ve never heard of for the cheapest price possible. They curate their festival. It’s incredibly peaceful and beautiful today and everyone’s having a great time. I think that Grass Lands is the guinea pig of what’s to come.”
Whether such launches will occur at Outside Lands is another thing. Given the success of Grass Lands — which stood no chance of being realized without the expedited assistance of several government agencies on the state and local level — it’s hard to imagine similar concepts won’t soon sprout up at other name festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza.
For the moment, at least locals now know where to go when it comes to pairing kind bud with killer tunes. Progress never tasted so sweet (and skunky).