Backlash against pot festival spurs special fair board meeting

All eyes in the San Diego cannabis community are set squarely on May 30 after the managers of the Del Mar Fairgrounds called for a public forum on the region’s first-ever cannabis festival.

The Goodlife Festival — which is planned for Sept. 23 — is expected to draw several thousand people to the fairgrounds. Organizers say it will be limited to age 21 and up, and only attendees with medical marijuana cards will be allowed to bring cannabis to consume in designated areas.

Fairgrounds managers — as is customary with smaller-scale events — had signed the contract prior to seeking approval from the board of directors. But backlash erupted after this newspaper broke the news on May 2, and the topic was scheduled for discussion at the May 23 board meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the state-owned fairgrounds.

But as the uproar grew, the DAA decided last week to host a special forum solely on the festival.

Anti-drug activists are hailing the May 30 forum as a small but important victory.

“We, in the public, didn’t have a chance to address it until after the contract was signed,” said Judi Strang, executive director of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth. “We don’t think cannabis use in a public facility is good public health.

Festival organizers plan to counter with testimony from medical marijuana patients, and the San Diego County Farm Bureau — which is fiercely pro-marijuana — is scheduled to give a presentation.

The board of directors is also asking for guidance from the state attorney general’s office, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees the state’s fairgrounds.

“This is something that we’re feeling our way on, because we’re getting different inputs from different folks,” said DAA Board President Russ Penniman. “Not everybody is on the same page on this. This needs a board discussion and we’ll see what comes of it.”

The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on May 30 at the fairgrounds board room, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar.

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