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A whiff of the music festival future? Outside Lands sells cannabis for the first time

Anita Chabria and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a misty morning Saturday in San Francisco's Golden Gate park, Janna Lutz sat sheltered in a grove of Monterey pine and eucalyptus trees carving a bong from an eggplant.

Lutz, 65, was on the West Coast visiting her son, Brian Lutz, 24, a software developer in San Jose. He'd brought his mother, an interior designer and former city council member in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, to Outside Lands, the Northern California music festival that draws around 200,000 people over its three-day run.

They were taking part in a milestone moment, one that attendees called "historic" and "cool" and that the elder Lutz called "a long time coming" -- the largest event in California, and the country, to allow legal sales and consumption of cannabis. It is a preview of what may eventually become commonplace for other big gatherings such as Southern California's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (though no such permit has yet been requested) as marijuana rules solidify.

On this second day of the festival, the Lutzes were checking out Grass Lands, a cordoned off, 21-and-over area where about two dozen vendors were, for the first time, hawking joints, infused chocolates, THC-laden nonalcoholic beers and more.

Grass Lands is a test case for California regulators trying to create boundaries for the expanding marijuana industry. For marijuana brands, it was a chance to woo new customers as cannabis morphs into an everyday commodity.

The Lutzes had purchased a pre-rolled joint earlier, but decided before partaking they would compete in a contest to create the best smoking device from vegetables. The winners would be chosen at 4:20 that afternoon.

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"We're saving ourselves because if we smoke right now the bong is going to look like sh --," said the younger Lutz. "So we're going to wait until we finish more of it."

Their restraint made them a minority in Grass Lands, where enthusiastic crowds filled "consumption areas" on raised platforms, posing for selfies, painting on a communal mural and exhaling thick billows of smoke to add to the light fog lingering into the afternoon.

Though cannabis has been legal in California since voters approved its recreational sale and use in 2016, it remains illegal to consume it in public or sell it outside of licensed dispensaries without a special event permit from both state and local authorities. While more than a dozen such licenses have been issued for mostly cannabis-centric events across California, Outside Lands broke new ground through size and scope, and because alcohol was sold widely at the event, a mix state lawmakers have placed strict rules on.

"It's kind of surreal," said Kaydee Perreira, 29, as she passed out squares of white chocolate mixed with matcha tea, a non-laced sample of candy bars sold by Nug, a dispensary with locations in Sacramento and Oakland. "I think this is a good start for what's going to happen in the years to come."

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