2017 cannabis event at fairgrounds canceled

2017 cannabis event at fairgrounds canceled
Lawrence Bame addresses the 22nd District Agricultural Association in May. Bame recently said his Goodlife Festival has been canceled, at least for this year. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — The Goodlife Festival will not be held as planned on Sept. 23 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“Maybe in 2018,” organizer Lawrence Bame wrote in an email.

Bame signed a $12,000 contract with the state-owned facility in March to hold the one-day festival, which was billed as an educational and informational event about medical marijuana.

According to a press release from Bame, it was to include food, entertainment, exhibitions and informative seminars to help attendees, who had to be 21 and older, appreciate and learn more about how cannabis, when used in a safe, legal and healthful way, “can enhance a creative, spirited, relaxed (and pain-free!) lifestyle.”

“It’s a revolutionary new festival for anyone interested in ‘the good life!’ Nowhere else can you learn more about the emerging cannabis scene, (from) the growers and business owners of your favorite cannabis products all in one place,” the press release states.

In May, with an 8-0 vote, the board of directors for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the fairgrounds, rescinded the contract, which required Bame to comply with all local, state and federal laws.

Most of the directors — about half are attorneys — said they didn’t oppose educating the public about medical marijuana but couldn’t support any use or promotion of the products because even though medical and recreational uses are allowed in California, both remain illegal under federal law.

Nearly all had liability concerns and how a decision to allow the festival as it was being advertised could impact their personal and professional lives and responsibilities to the fairgrounds.

“The only government policy that I can follow is adherence to law, and we clearly have a federal law that prohibits possession of marijuana,” Director Richard Valdez said.

“The federal law is in direct conflict with California state law,” said Josh Caplan, the deputy district attorney who acts as counsel to the 22nd DAA.

“I can unequivocally tell you that the guidelines or any language which would allow for the possession or consumption of a controlled substance would violate the letter of federal law,” he added.

Caplan said the probability of prosecution from the federal government might be “quite low” but he couldn’t say “the probability is zero.”

“Mr. Bame made it crystal clear that he’s going to breach the contract so it’s not worth the paper that it’s printed on,” Director Watson said. “I have no doubt that (marijuana) will be consumed onsite. And approving this contract just means that we’re endorsing the violation of federal law.”

Directors said Bame, who has been producing home and garden shows at the fairgrounds for more than 30 years, could still go forward with the event if a revised contract included a detailed description of the festival that also stated possession or consumption of marijuana for any use will not be allowed.

Bame initially said that wasn’t a problem, and he continued to work with fairgrounds staff to address those issues.

The soonest he could return to the board, which generally is not involved in contract negotiations, was Aug. 8 because regular meetings were not held during the San Diego County Fair. The contract is not on the agenda for that meeting.

In response to a recent email request for an update, Bame stated, “There is NO Festival in 2017. … I have been told NOT to return to the Board this year!”

He chose not to comment further.

Director Stephen Shewmaker said as he understood the situation, the board was waiting for final guidance from the state Department of Food and Agriculture, which may be why it was suggested that Bame not appear before the board at this time.

Tim Fennell, the fairgrounds general manger who negotiated the contract, was on vacation and unavailable to comment at press time.

Watson said he had not been involved in any discussions regarding the event since the May 30 board decision to rescind the contract.

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