Oakland dispensaries hope for bill to expand cannabis permits

Magnolia Wellness dispensary budtender Anthony Bowles, left, discusses the dispensary's upcoming events with Oakland resident Jess Feldmann, right.

Magnolia Wellness dispensary budtender Anthony Bowles, left, discusses the dispensary's upcoming events with Oakland resident Jess Feldmann, right.

A bill that arrived on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk last week could change where people can purchase and consume cannabis products. Assembly Bill 2020 would allow the sale and consumption of marijuana at special temporary events, including festivals.

“I hope it passes,” said Debby Goldsberry, executive director of Magnolia Wellness, a medical and recreational dispensary in Oakland. “We want our cannabis events to be licensed, to be in safe places.”

At events in Oakland, such as music festivals and fairs, people often consume cannabis even though the events do not have a permit allowing attendees to do so, said Goldsberry. The new bill would authorize cities to issue temporary permits to event organizers so that they can host cannabis vendors at events.

Under current state law, which initially passed as Senate Bill 94, cannabis companies can set up booths at events, but they are not allowed to sell cannabis products unless the events take place at county fairgrounds or at a designated agriculture association gathering. At all other events, cannabis companies can only provide information. AB 2020 would expand the types of events at which cannabis sales and consumption can take place. The City of Oakland, which sponsored the new bill, ensured that it allows cities to choose which events will be permitted.

The permits would also allow events to have designated cannabis consumption areas, similar to the smoking areas that already exist at many outdoor festivals. The bill specifies that consumption of cannabis cannot be “visible from any public place or nonage-restricted area.”

The law would directly benefit cannabis businesses, said Kieran Ringgenberg of Oakland-based Ringgenberg Law firm, which helps cannabis businesses navigate California state law. “It creates a framework that licensed companies can participate in public events without fear of losing their license,” he said.

According to the Senate Committee for Business, Professions and Economic Development’s report on the bill, a variety of cannabis business associations and cities supported the bill, including the California Growers Association and the City of Emeryville. Festival and music companies, such as Northern Nights Music Group and Hush Concerts, have also supported the bill.

Fairs and festivals aside, AB 2020 could be a step toward allowing more dedicated, permanent spaces for recreational consumption in the future, said Ringgenberg. The bill contains a provision that would permit businesses statewide to have on-site consumption, as long as it is locally authorized.

Some California cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, are allowing dispensaries to create lounges where customers can consume cannabis. In Oakland, dispensaries can apply for permits to operate permanent lounge spaces, but they have been slow to get established.

Goldsberry, whose Magnolia Wellness dispensary has one of the few lounge spaces in Oakland, says she would welcome more of these establishments. “We’re not trying to monopolize. We’re trying to create more safe spaces for people to consume off the streets,” she said.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.