Del Mar Fairgrounds not down with legal cannabis – San Diego CityBEAT


It’s around 4 p.m. at the Mission Tower venue at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and a cannabis education event called GoodLife Cannabis Seminar Series is winding down, but still lively. Speakers such as Chef Luke Reyes and cannabis attorney Kimberly Simms lecture on either side of the room, while patrons examine non-medicated cannabis samples. 

Before it came to fruition, however, this seemingly mellow event was embroiled in a years-long battle with the fairgrounds’ board over whether cannabis products would be allowed on-site. Such disagreements aren’t uncommon, but GoodLife is just a more recent example of how the cannabis industry is still at the mercy of local jurisdictions despite cannabis’ statewide legalization. 

“We signed the contract two years ago to put on an event with cannabis,” says GoodLife organizer Lawrence Bame. “When one [Fairgrounds] board member changed his mind—or never read in the first place—he called for a meeting to revoke our permit.”

Bame and the Del Mar Fairgrounds first signed a contract in 2017, which was later rescinded over concerns of on-site cannabis. After the fairgrounds’ operators, the 22nd District Agricultural Association (DAA), approved a Cannabis Interim Event Policy, a revised contract with GoodLife was approved on Nov. 14, 2018. 

The contract stipulated that GoodLife wouldn’t be allowed to have cannabis products on-site, including paraphenalia or hemp-derived CBD, which is federally legal. Cannabis companies tabling the May 11 event had displays with products’ empty packaging or non-medicated samples.  

Despite the fairgrounds’ cannabis policy, Bame remained set on hosting GoodLife at that location rather than seeking another venue.  

Matthew Shapiro, a San Diego lawyer specializing in cannabis law, says GoodLife’s disagreement with the fairgrounds highlights a broader issue at play in California. 

“The people passed Prop 64 to legalize cannabis. However, so much authority was granted to local jurisdictions, which are generally run by city councils,” says Shapiro. “The people who make up the city councils aren’t usually the demographic of the people that passed Prop 64. So you have people in the decision-making seat who are really opposed to cannabis.” 

Although the fairgrounds is managed by the state (more specifically, the 22nd DAA), its board can still enact its own cannabis policies. The 22nd DAA declined to comment for this article but did provide CityBeat with its “Cannabis Interim Event Policy,” which was approved on Aug. 14, 2018. 

“The 22nd District Agricultural Association will not permit, allow, encourage, promote, or solicit the possession or use of any ‘Controlled Substance’ and/or any ‘Drug Paraphernalia’… including cannabis on the premises,” reads the policy. 

It goes on to say that the 22nd DAA wants to phase in with cannabis education events, but not until Jan. 1, 2020 when the board will consider on-site medical use of cannabis. The city of Del Mar itself forbids commercial cannabis activity. 

Shapiro says cannabis events pre-Prop 64 weren’t as tightly regulated as they are now and it wasn’t uncommon to see illegal sales and public consumption of cannabis. And with the drug legalized in the state and California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control formed, it’s interesting that there are still instances such as the one experienced by GoodLife.

Other state fairgrounds have prohibited commercial cannabis activity at events. Concentrates expo Abra Ca Dabs at the San Bernardino Fairground on March 23, 2019 is a recent example. Still, Shapiro says he considers Abra Ca Dabs and GoodLife to be among the lucky ones. 

“I’ve even seen instances where events were outright canceled altogether because of resistance from the local municipalities and their city council.” 

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