California’s county fairs — those wholesome showcases of agricultural bounty — could become places to score some pot.
Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed a bill that details how to carry out the November 2016 ballot measure that legalizes recreational marijuana as of January 2018. Tucked deep in the text is an option for county fairs to allow sampling and sales for people 21 and older in designated spots.
The Stanislaus County Fair has had “minor discussions” among the board and Chief Executive Officer Matt Cranford about the issue, spokeswoman Adrenna Alkhas said by email.
“We must always look at our demographics and keep in mind that this is a family-friendly fair,” she said. “Once this takes effect next year, we will give it thorough thought and see how supportive the public would be.”
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Representatives of the Merced and San Joaquin county fairs could not be reached for comment.
The rules also allow local managers to rent the grounds for cannabis-themed events at nonfair times of the year.
Voter approval of recreational use has shown how attitudes have changed about a substance long thought to have little social value. The 1996 measure allowing medical marijuana helped change many minds.
But the rules assure that people will not be able to indulge just anywhere, including at the fairgrounds. Don’t expect a cannabis booth anywhere near the 4-H swine barn or the baked-goods exhibits (which by coincidence include brownies). And a stoned person who tries to drive home could be arrested by the same police officers who keep watch on beer drinkers at the fair.
The media has had fun with the image of marijuana users getting the munchies and exploring the enticing array of fair food. The Fresno Bee last week imagined “a dramatic increase in funnel cake sales at county fairs across the state.”
That story found various reactions among county fairs in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley. The Big Fresno Fair is not planning on any cannabis on its grounds. The Madera District Fair is waiting for further direction from the state before making a decision. The same goes for the Kings Fair. The Tulare County Fair is skeptical of pot at the event but is open to cannabis-specific events at other times.
“It has the potential to bring a lot of problems to the fair,” Tulare CEO Pamela Fyock said. “We work very hard to make sure this is a safe, family-friendly environment.”
John Holland: 209-578-2385