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Marijuana mega-fair expected to draw 30,000 to Wine Country

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Marijuana mega-fair expected to draw 30,000 to Wine Country

By Ed Murrieta |

December 7, 2016

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The Emerald Cup features all-day lineups of speakers and musicians.

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Attendees look at cannabis flower bud entries in 2014 at the Emerald Cup, which returns to Santa Rosa this weekend.

Longtime marijuana event producer Tim Blake has sober advice for first-timers partaking of newly legal pot at the Emerald Cup, a cannabis county fair in Santa Rosa expected to draw 30,000 people this weekend.

“Don’t eat too many edibles,” said the event’s founder.

While a little pot can fight nausea and anxiety, eating too much can make folks queasy and uneasy. The world’s largest cannabis competition and expo will be chock full of such cannabis-infused sweets, savories and beverages Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 10-11 — so much so that the event’s host, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, has required new rules to cut down on overindulgence.

“The fairgrounds makes us give out only low-dose edibles, so nobody gets too high,” Blake said. “We can’t serve over a 10-milligram dose.”

Now in its 13th year and breaking records for entries and attendance, the state’s biggest pot celebration since the general election is enticing a bumper crop of new guests.

Legalization initiative Proposition 64 passed with nearly 57 percent of the vote Nov. 8, making cannabis legal in California for adults 21 and older. But until 2018, you still need a medical card to legally purchase the drug. So there’s been an uptick in first-time medical cannabis recommendations, and Blake said the Emerald Cup’s popular “medication area” — a vast bazaar where you can sample and buy bud in countless forms — will be bigger than ever.

“It was a big mosh pit last year,” Blake said. “It was so crowded emergency crews couldn’t get through. So we had to redesign it.”

Even with the redesign, the event promises to be a spectacle.

“This will be the largest display of cannabis and cannabis products ever put together in the world,” Blake said.

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There are a record-breaking 1,100 contest entries this year in categories including cannabis flower buds and extracts.

The Emerald Cup honors California cannabis farmers and their products with a judged competition, expo, lecture series and a slew of entertainment. A record-breaking 1,100 contest entries were submitted this year in categories that include cannabis flower buds, extracts, topicals and edibles — up from 850 entries last year. A win can be life-changing for contestants, who pay $250 per entry.

“You need to win these contests to establish your brands,” Blake said. “When Aficionado Seeds won in 2012, it made his seed company. All of a sudden, he was selling seeds for $50 apiece. People get a couple hundred dollars more per pound for their flowers. It’s like winning a wine contest. And we’re the most respected contest in the business.”

The Emerald Cup began modestly in 2003 in Mendocino County with a handful of outlaw farmers. By 2013, it became too big for the rural county and moved to Sonoma County, drawing 6,700 attendees that year, 14,000 in 2014 and 22,000 in 2015.

“This year we’ll push it above 25,000 for the weekend,” Blake said. “With the Friday night pre-party, we may push 30,000 for the weekend.”

In addition to awards, the Emerald Cup features all-day lineups of speaker and music headliners like Bob Marley’s son Damian Marley. One of the last educational panels to be announced features two first-time attendees: North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood and Lori Ajax, chief of California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.

“I consider that a coup,” Blake said. “We’ve crossed that line of legitimacy, and now they all want to come in and help us prepare for the regulated legal marketplace. It’s about education. After 80 years of reefer madness, we’re slowly untangling it.”

The Emerald Cup: Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 10-11. $70-$120. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. www.theemeraldcup.com

How to go like a pro

Book a room now. The closest hotels to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds sell out months in advance of the event.

Get a medical cannabis recommendation to enter the Emerald Cup’s must-see medical marijuana bazaar, where people smoke, dab, vape, eat and buy the botanical.

Save time by getting your weed card this week. You can do it over the phone for $40 with services like HelloMD, MeadowMD or EazeMD. Then bring your paperwork and valid identification to get a wristband for the bazaar. Doctors will also be on-site issuing cards.

Dress warmly. Temperatures won’t top 60 degrees. Consider hand and foot warmers. Wear comfortable shoes.

Bring cash for food, bud, seeds, pipes, books and clothing; it’s all cash-only, and ATM fees are a buzzkill.

5 essential must-dos

Wander through the Hall of Flowers scooping up deals on cannabis accessories. Pose for a photo with the marijuana entry display case.

Meet famous cannabis growers in the medication area and score some deals on the hottest cannabis brands.

Learn how to clean up your pot record at the Expungement Workshop set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, in the Garden Annex Building.

Catch the funky R&B act California Honeydrops at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the FlavRX Pavilion.

Learn regenerative farming at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Kraft Stage.

Listen to the weed world’s most powerful woman, Lori Ajax, head of California’s marijuana regulatory body, at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, on the Finley Stage.

Field glossary

Concentrates: Whether it’s called oil, shatter, wax, budder or good old hashish, they are all concentrated and, therefore, more potent, forms of cannabis.

Solvents: Butane, propane, hexane, CO2 and other gases, chemicals and compounds used to extract cannabis oil.

Rosin: Born out of the Emerald Cup’s refusal to allow solvent extracts, cannabis entrepreneurs invented a method of heating and pressing raw cannabis to extract oil. The Cup’s rosin competition is in its second year.

Terpenes: Compounds that control the flavors, aromas and types of highs (or lows) experienced from cannabis.

Light Dep: Also known as light deprivation, it’s a farming technique that uses tarps to mimic autumn light and force plants to flower earlier and more often.

CBD: Cannabidiol, which is the second most common active ingredient in pot. It doesn’t get you high, but can treat pain, anxiety and inflammation.

— Ed Murrieta is a San Francisco freelance journalist.

sfchronicle

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At a cannabis festival, joyful stoners imbibe and state officials sweat the details

Submitted by Marijuana News

Fri, 12/16/2016

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Outside a Sonoma County Fairgrounds exhibition hall last weekend, hordes of happy pot lovers walked around the Emerald Cup harvest festival, already stoned or about to be.

Inside the hall, a panel of entirely sober government officials discussed the ramifications of marijuana legalization, California’s complex and evolving regulatory structure, and tried to answer questions about the future of the cannabis industry that seem, at this point, unanswerable.

Will cannabis businesses ever be able to move away from the all-cash model forced upon them by banks unwilling to risk their charters to do business with purveyors of what the feds still classify as a controlled substance? (Hope so, said state Board of Equalization Chairwoman Fiona Ma, who urged them to pay their taxes even if they have to use buckets of cash to do so.)

How will the regulations that were belatedly developed for the 20-year-old medical marijuana industry mesh with regulations for adult recreational marijuana, approved by California voters in November? (Not sure yet, said Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s new Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, who will be untangling that knot.)

When and how will marijuana growers be held to tight standards about pesticide residues, which not only taint products but have devastating effects on workers and the environment? (Unclear, said Brian Leahy, director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, who added that if cannabis were held to the same stringent standards his department applies to carrots, the industry would probably be shut down.)

Hoping for clarity a few days later, I called Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood of Healdsburg, who was also on the panel. Wood has the distinction of having written five cannabis-related bills, more than any other California legislator.

Had our lawmakers taken medical marijuana seriously when voters legalized it, he said, we probably would not be facing such confusion today.

But it took them nearly two decades to develop the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, a set of bills signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown. They won’t have that luxury with recreational marijuana. The new law requires the state to begin issuing various licenses in January 2018.

“I got into this in January 2015, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t find out something I didn’t know before,” Wood told me. “You could dedicate your entire career to this issue and not get your arms around the entire thing.”

Saturday afternoon, I wandered into the sprawling heart of the Emerald Cup, a bustling, fenced-off marketplace open only to those with a medical marijuana recommendation, media included. (Recreational marijuana is now legal to possess, carry and grow, but, unlike medical marijuana, there is no legal way to buy it just yet. This area was purely transactional.)

Most of the cup’s 15,000 or so paying guests, who forked over between $70 and $120 per ticket, spent some time here. They could wander around a cavernous livestock barn filled with herb vendors or poke around across the way, in a huge tent where dozens of edible cannabis makers offered tastes of their wares.

Getting a medical card ahead of time was so easy, it felt transgressive. I had a Skype consultation with a pediatrician. What were my symptoms? I told her I have a lot of anxiety. (Who doesn’t?)

“You don’t look very anxious,” she said.

“Well, I hide it pretty well,” I replied.

A week later, my card arrived in the mail. I never had to leave my house.

Clouds of smoke hung in the air as festival-goers puffed away on flowers or resins or shatter or hash before committing to purchase (or not). Famous cultivators offered top-shelf “genetics” or seeds, some costing as much as $25 apiece.

At nearly every booth, I was offered something free. Pins, stickers, joints. There were trays of infused chocolates for the taking, extract-filled vape pens for the toking. Huge amounts of cash, fueled by strategically placed ATMs, changed hands.

“If those were patients,” Wood said, “there should have been sales tax, and on Monday morning, every vendor should be waltzing down to the Board of Equalization to pay their taxes.” (Yeah … no.)

Not being a pot person, I am always stunned by how much weed people can consume and remain upright. I did see some folks hovering protectively over a woman lying on a bench with her eyes pressed shut. And I overheard one young man say to his friend, “I know I am walking forward, but I keep feeling like I am falling backward.”::

I met Erin Gore in the edibles tent. She seemed both slightly out of place and symbolic of the new era.

Marijuana is too big an industry to rely on tired stereotypes like dreadlocks, tattoos and flannel shirts, but a certain grunge aesthetic still obtains. Gore, 33, in a black-and-gold sweater set, looked as if she belonged in an executive suite, not at a cannabis confab.

Turns out, she spent 10 years working as an executive for Henkel, a global adhesives business. After discovering that cannabis could help her sleep and deal with the pain of hip surgeries, she became an enthusiast.

“I did a lot of experimenting,” she said. “I smoked, I tried edibles that were way too strong or bad-tasting. I couldn’t find what I wanted — something that was well-sourced, organic, flavorful and low-dose. So I started making my own.”

In April, she quit her job. On Saturday, she debuted Garden Society, her line of cannabis-infused fruit gelées and chocolates. The gelées contain 5 mg of THC, which is considered a very low dose. The chocolates have 10 mgs.

“A lot of times, women over-consume cannabis and it makes us anxious,” she said. “So you want to figure out what your ideal dose is. I am a big, tall woman. My perfect dose is 7.5 mg.”

As I left the Emerald Cup, I crossed the street with a slightly wobbly woman who looked about 25. “Have a good time?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And then the edibles kicked in and I decided it was time to go home.”

latimes

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