Ben Stansall, AFP We give our modern day rock stars a lot of grief, and often…
- Posted on Oct 13th 2010 3:30PM by Steve Baltin
Barbara Zanon, Getty Images
As impressive as the artist lineup is, it's another aspect of this year's festival that a lot of people will be watching very closely: the legal use of medicinal marijuana onsite. As Guerilla Union president Chang Weisberg tells Spinner, the "Sonoma County Fairgrounds and Harmony Festival have had [dispensary] Peace in Medicine onsite and it's such a normal part of the culture." Still, the free use of pot is unprecedented at a festival of this size.
In fact, Goldenvoice head Paul Tollett, a longtime friend of Weisberg who books the Coachella festival, is amazed that it's being allowed. "There's never been a massive festival that has had medicinal marijuana," Tollett says. "Chang has been talking about it for the last couple of years and when I first heard it I thought, 'You'll never get that, Chang.'" Now that he has, Tollett sees it as hugely important moment. "It's the most significant feature of a music festival in a couple of decades," he says.
Weisberg agrees. "It's not too far from the future right now where you could see responsible 21-and-over use of medical marijuana," he says. "If we can harness this particular industry, be a positive advocate and help create policy, this could have a substantial change on my business. That means it will have a big impact for musicians as well."
So how did Weisberg pull off this coup? "Number one, having been a diligent promoter that has been incident-free for 10-plus years in the city of San Bernardino, that's a part of it," he says. "Two, when we reintroduced the SmokeOut last year, we brought a medical-marijuana expo onsite, and its objective was education, activism and compassion. Cypress and Guerilla Union threw ourselves into an industry to become an active advocate, meaning we did a lot of research and outreach -- actually going out and speaking with the leadership and policymakers last year. Definitely a step in the right direction."
Cypress Hill, meanwhile, see this as an achievement for the patients and fans than any sort of political victory. Still, they hope it will have further implications down the road. "We see consumption onsite at SmokeOut as a huge step toward protecting and enabling patient rights. It happens far too often where patients are messed with and arrested for possession of less than an ounce of medicine," rapper B. Real says. "Here at SmokeOut, our fans can exercise their rights without fear or intimidation. By having safe and compassionate consumption at SmokeOut, we're hoping to set a viable precedent for music festivals and the community. We hope it inspires others to take that step and help further the movement."