DEL MAR — An upcoming seminar series focusing on cannabis education hit a road bump in mid-March, after a detail in its promotional pamphlet caught the attention of the Del Mar Fairground’s operating board.
The dialogue was sparked in part by a 2018 federal farm bill, which legalized hemp and removed it from the federal government’s list of controlled substances.
The Goodlife Seminar Series is set to take place on May 11 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The 22nd District Agricultural Association approved the event in November, after it was beset with public opposition and legal concerns since it was first proposed in 2017.
The daylong event is meant to educate the public on alternative medicine through a variety of seminars, on topics such as the most recent medical research related to cannabinoids.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors crafted a Cannabis Interim Event Policy in response to the event, prohibiting the possession or use of any “controlled substance” or “drug paraphernalia” on the fairground’s property.
“The Board wishes to maintain this policy and not permit any contracted events allowing the sale, distribution, consumption or any other use of cannabis,” the policy reads.
So when the board saw the fine print on a promotional pamphlet submitted for approval by the event’s operators, members were concerned.
“The entire series is smoke-free and no products containing greater than 0.3% THC can be purchased, sampled or consumed during the event; this policy will be strictly enforced. Over 18 event,” reads the advertisement.
The 2018 federal farm bill — which went into effect in January — stipulates that in order to be legal under federal law, hemp must contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Hemp, unlike cannabis, is not a psychoactive drug.
The concern about any products with even an iota of THC being sold at the fairgrounds prompted discussion on what standards the state-appointed board should be enforcing, and how it could ensure that itis upholding federal and state law.
Board Director David Watson, who drafted the policy along with Director Pierre Sleiman, said the fairground’s interim policy intended that the event would be for only “information, education and advocacy.”
“My intent was that there be no product, period,” he said at the March 12 board meeting, calling the discussion an indication of a “bad beginning” for what is the first event of its kind on the state-owned property.
The board’s directors speculated at how potentially taking a stance on hemp might impact other events at the fairgrounds, specifically where there are vendors selling a variety of products.
Richard Valdez, the 22nd DAA board’s vice president, expressed concern that even if hemp is legal, “there could be potential problems with it.”
“So we need to understand what is legal, what’s not legal and whether or not we’re going to allow it, but I don’t think I’m willing to allow for the sale of CBD products to be at the May 11 event until we have a vote on it,” he said.
Valdez said he was surprised by the mention that there would be the sale of “any sort of item.”
“I think we need a deeper dive,” board President Steve Shewmaker said.
The board then voted to reiterate its interim policy, and have the 22nd DAA’s counsel conduct research into whether the policy could be amended to better reflect current legal concerns.
When reached for comment on the discussion, Goodlife Seminar Series President Lawrence Bame said, “it’s just a question of semantics.”
“(The board) defined it one way and we were under another impression,” Bame said.
“ … You can go to your local neighborhood pharmacy and buy some of those products,” he said, referring to legalized hemp products.
Bame said there will now be no hemp products for sale at the event.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.