The founder of one of the largest marijuana festivals announced a lawsuit against California’s cannabis regulatory agency on Tuesday after the massive Chalice Festival was denied a permit to hold a fully licensed event.
The Chalice Festival, a three-day event that was scheduled to take place at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, has run into complications with new regulations that followed the passage of California’s recreational marijuana law.
Specifically, California law requires that any “temporary cannabis event” must be held at a publicly owned venue such as a county fairground. Vendors must be licensed to sell and distribute marijuana products. And then event organizers have to get final approval from California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC).
That last part is where the Chalice Festival has found itself snagged in red tape.
The BCC requires permission from the local jurisdiction where a temporary cannabis event takes place. After consulting with attorneys, Doug Dracup, founder and producer of the Chalice Festival, determined that the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds was itself sovereign from the Southern California city of Victorville. While the board of the fairgrounds unanimously consented to the event, citing the economic benefits and the festival’s past compliance, the Victorville City Council pushed back.
“The BCC denied my application due to the city of Victorville’s disapproval of cannabis activity in their jurisdiction,” Dracup wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday. “We went and tried to get on the agenda at the Victorville city council meeting, they refused to put us on the agenda. It is not their jurisdiction.”
View this post on Instagram
Today marks a historical moment in my career. Over the last 5 years I have put everything I have into this festival because I believe in it so much. I'm grateful to be the producer and founder of @chalicefestival. Im proud of it. I feel I need to get everyone up to date on where we are at with this years event. After 2017 chalice, we set our focus on being the first fully licensed and compliant cannabis festival in america. In December, we were first in line to be issued a cannabis event promoter license, which gives us the right to throw up to 10 events a year. The law said for each event we need a temporary event license issued by the bureau of cannabis control. So January 1st, pioneering new territory, we set out with a group of attorneys and professionals to interpret the laws written on throwing cannabis events- verifying we were fully compliant, and that we were operating lawfully. The law asks for "local jurisdiction approval" and for events to be thrown on DAA property (district agricultural associations), of which there are under 100 of in California. The location we throw @chalicefestival is a compliant DAA that is licensable. After review, the attorneys deemed that the fairgrounds itself was the local jurisdiction, and that it was sovereign to the local ordinances. We submitted an application to the BCC before the 60 day cutoff, our application was complete and met all legal criteria. The BCC denied my application due to the city of Victorvilles disapproval of cannabis activity in their jurisdiction. We went and tried to get on the agenda at the Victorville city council meeting, they refused to put us on the agenda. It is not their jurisdiction. We are trying to be respectful. We throw our event on compliant state property and are fully entitled to the BCC issuing us our retail sales license for the event. In conclusion, I'm suing the Bureau of cannabis control, and filing an injunction for the court to force the BCC to issue the permit. Stand behind us as we fight. While we pursue our state claim, the city of Victorville needs to hear our voices of protest! We have a city council meeting today at 530 in Victorville! Come out and support!
“We throw our event on compliant state property and are fully entitled to the BCC issuing us our retail sales license for the event. In conclusion, I’m suing the Bureau of cannabis control, and filing an injunction for the court to force the BCC to issue the permit.”
A Chalice spokesperson had strong words against the BCC’s ruling:
“The BCC’s interpretation of the law, the Victorville City Council’s refusal to issue an approval letter as demanded by the BCC, and the ultimate denial of Chalice’s permit on the grounds of “local jurisdiction approval” all violate clear and established case law about the state sovereignty of the county fairgrounds and the 28th DAA, which quite simply are not subject to ANY local municipal codes at either the city or county level,” he said.
“The jurisdiction which holds legal authority over the SBC fairgrounds is the 28th DAA, who gave us our written approval, and the BCC rejected it. The laws that govern the implementation of Prop 64 are confusing, contradictory and violate state sovereignty, making it virtually impossible to host a licensed cannabis event at the majority of properties explicitly authorized to host them.
We want the court to address this issue, and confirm the intent of the legislature and the will of the voters in California to allow safe and permitted cannabis events to happen at the county fairgrounds and DAA-owned properties which are authorized under the law to host them.”
In a petition filed with the Superior Court of California in Sacramento County, the petitioner argued that the “only reason BCC has given for its failure to issue the temporary license is that BCC believes that the City in which the Fairground is located must give approval for the event before the BCC may issue the license.”
“BCC’s reason is based on an incorrect interpretation of the law and is contrary to the law,” the petitioner argued. “Based on the sovereign rights of the DAA/FAIRGROUND, authorization from the DAA/FAIRGROUND on which the event will be held is the only authorization needed for the BCC to issue the temporary license under the law.”
Alex Traverso, BCC’s chief of communications, told High Times that the agency was “reviewing” the lawsuit and doesn’t “have any comment at this time.”
This isn’t the first cannabis festival to meet resistance from the BCC.
Since the implementation of Prop 64, there have been three High Times Cannabis Cup events throughout California. In April, just days before the company’s scheduled event at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino, the San Bernardino City Council refused to permit cannabis sales or use on the property. The city council cited a recent ordinance that requires permit applications at least 60 days prior to the event. The BCC warned vendors that unsanctioned marijuana sales could result in the loss of licenses due to the local jurisdiction’s decision.
The show went on, however. But permitted consumption and access to vendors was limited to medical marijuana patients.
In Central and Northern California, High Times received BCC approval for its recent Cannabis Cup events. That’s in spite of the fact that the company was unable to obtain local approval at least 60 days before the event was scheduled to take place, as required by state law. But with local consent, the BCC appeared willing to make exceptions.
It’s unclear if the BCC will ultimately exercise similar leniency for the Chalice Festival. But the festival’s organizer isn’t taking any chances.