The grass may be greener, and more profitable, at this cannabis-friendly California golf tournament – The Desert Sun
The 420 Lounge is the first legal cannabis smoking lounge in Palm Springs, Calif. (January 2019) Palm Springs Desert Sun
It had all the trappings of just another industry networking golf tournament, the kind that is held dozens and dozens of times in the desert each year.
White pop-up tents greeted golfers on each tee box with smiling sponsors passing out literature about their business or even offering free samples. Golfers who might only play two or three times a year or who might be playing the game for the first time happily slapped away at golf balls while taking about the latest changes or challenges of their industry.
What made this industry networking golf tournament at Woodhaven Country Club in Palm Desert on Saturday different was that the aroma around the course wasn’t freshly mowed rye grass. It was marijuana smoke, and the product being talked about was cannabis, in all of its forms.
“We respect the fact that there is this tremendous growth in consumption events and being in a place that is generally reserved for the upper echelons of society, it shows that cannabis has come a long way in being normalized in the community,” said Kevin Love of San Diego-based Two Roots, a cannabis-based craft beer company and one of 21 sponsors at the Woodhaven event.
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Golfers being on a first-name basis with the beverage cart girl while drinking beers or even cocktails on golf courses is certainly nothing new. But in the brave new world of legalized cannabis, the networking event run by the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network was billed as the first cannabis-friendly golf tournament in California.
As one course official said, it’s hardly the first time cannabis has shown up at a desert golf course.
“From a daily operation standpoint, I don’ t think there is a golf course in the desert that goes a day without someone smoking pot on it,” said Derrick Strub, general manager at Woodhaven.
More than 200 people were on the Woodhaven grounds for the CVCAN event, said CVCAN director of operations Quentin Dusastre, who joined in the spirit of the golf event by dressing in a shirt, shorts and socks emblazoned with the five-leaf cannabis plant and a Scottish-style golf cap. The day included 132 golfers and 21 sponsors, and while not everyone on course was “consuming” cannabis, many were partaking without fear of judgment from anyone in the event.
How could a desert country club allow itself to have a relationship with the world of cannabis-infused beverages, beef jerky, trail mix and ancillary companies like employment eatables? How did a desert course suddenly find its Frank Sinatra music and graying temples replaced by reggae and dreadlocks? In the case of Woodhaven, it started with a traditional country club dinner.
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“We started by hosting dinners for them, networking dinners, probably one Monday a month,” Strub said. “It’s been tremendous. They are an extremely professional organization. CVCAN is accommodating to any request we’ve had.”
That includes respecting club rules like no smoking – of anything – in the clubhouse or within 25 feet of any entrances to the clubhouse. Any literature had to be careful placed so that it didn’t intrude on the concurrent dinners the club hosts for its members.
“There is some discretion that clearly needed to be exercised, because people sit on both sides of the fence on cannabis,” Strub said.
To discourage the possible backlash from members at the equity Woodhaven club over the networking tournament, CVCAN bought out the golf course for the day, meaning no public play was allowed on the course and golfers, sponsors and others could use cannabis as much as they wanted.
“One of the big pieces that I told Quentin before we committed to this event is it would be something that I would need my boss, which is our board president, to sign off on,” Strub said. “So as long as he was in support of it, it would be something we would be happy to host. It’s a good money maker for us. It’s no-brainer for us to do a tournament like this in May. You don’t get opportunities like that this late in the season.”
A popular spot on the day was the second tee, where Cathedral City-based Cru Cannibas was handing out packaged samples of cannabis joints and even had a bong available for golfers to try. There was also a golf ball cannon, fueled by compressed air, for golfers to fire a ball down the fairway.
For all the stereotypical contradictions of a cannabis event at a country club, a different kind of grass being smoked on the course, and reggae music wafting across the fairways, the players, the sponsors and CVCAN officials took the event seriously as a logical step forward for the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley.
“This is our first (golf event). It is obvious we are in the backyard of all of these great golf courses,” said Jocelyn Kane, vice president of the board of CVCAN. “We have a relationship with Woodhaven and so we found a great charity that makes all of the sense in the world in the Desert Cancer Foundation. We are planning on doing many more of these and maybe bring celebrities.”
Yes, the event featured smoking or eating or drinking cannabis-based products. But it wasn’t really about how cannabis and golf could mix. Instead, it was about a burgeoning industry that wants respect and needs the same kinds of services other business have.
“I’ve been talking to my family and they say, what are you doing, and I say, no, it’s just like any other business,’ said Lisa DeLuna, the branch manager for @Work Personnel in Palm Desert. “They need A to Z positions. People need to work and they need to get their product out.”
DeLuna said her company began a cannabis division a year ago, helping cannabis companies find employees that can trim, roll and package product among other jobs in the new industry.
Hardcar of Desert Springs provides a different kind of service, secure transportation of both product and money for cannabis companies. The company employs only former military and law enforcement members, many of whom have used cannabis-based products to combat post-traumatic stress disorder or other long-term effects of stress.
And yes, there was cannabis product in shiny package with discussions of price points and product quality and the importance of branding and distribution. In a sense these businessmen, dreadlocks or no dreadlocks, sounded a lot like any other group of business men and women talking about their product. And that’s exactly what CVCAN wants.
“This is a business in the biggest B sense of the word, and it’s worth billions with a B,” Kane said. “It is just improving itself and learning as we go. We are under what is probably the heaviest regulation of any business that you can imagine, even more than liquor, and they are fighting through it. They definitely want to be serious about this.”
Serious enough, she said, to do business on golf courses, where Corporate America has transacted business for decades.
“To be behind the gates of a golf course in the desert tells you a lot about where this business is going,” Kane said.
This article originally appeared here in https://www.desertsun.com/story/sports/golf/2019/05/13/weed-business-grows-so-does-its-impact-palm-springs-area-golf-courses/1169617001/