'This Was a Wild Dream': Cannabis Cup Comes to Sonoma County

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Popular strains of marijuana on display at one of the many booths at Cannabis Cup at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. It's only the second event in the U.S. to allow the purchase and consumption of marijuana in one place. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

Hundreds gathered Saturday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa to do something that's pretty rare in this country: legally buy and consume marijuana products at the same place.

Organizers say the two-day Cannabis Cup, put on by the marijuana media company High Times, is just the second event in the country to allow visitors to buy and consume marijuana all in one place.

To make it happen, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds was turned into a farmers market of marijuana, smoking devices, clothing and even potting soil. There's also music featuring performances from Phil Lesh, Miguel and several others.

"In 1968 when I was born this was a wild dream," says Erin Hay, who says she's smoked marijuana for most of her adult life. "There's a lot of people living their dreams who are in their 70s. There's a lot of people in their 20s and 30s taking it for granted that this is just the way we live now, and it's pretty cool."

Cat Ley traveled to Santa Rosa from Los Angeles to work at the Cannabis Cup. She gave festival attendees samples of strawberry-flavored cannabis wax. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

Michael Beck, who's working a booth that sells soil specially formulated for marijuana plants, says the industry has shifted from primarily mom-and-pop growers to large-scale farms.

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"There's benefits and drawbacks," he says about legalization. "There's stability for people, but there's a lot of people who had built family businesses and existed in this way for a long time before legalization came that aren't thriving in this environment."

Customers line up for some "#designerweed" from Connected Cannabis, one of the many corporate cannabis companies at the Cannabis Cup. Their booth had a DJ and a smoking lounge.
Customers line up for some "#designerweed" from Connected Cannabis, one of the many corporate cannabis companies at the Cannabis Cup. Their booth had a DJ and a smoking lounge. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

That's not the case for Jacob Richard, who says his family-run marijuana company in Humboldt County has exploded since legalization. He says his family has been growing for the past three years and received their recreational license last month.

He's using the Cannabis Cup as a chance to learn from the more commercial companies.

Jacob Richard works at the booth for his family's marijuana business that they run out of Humboldt County on June 2, 2018.
Jacob Richard works at the booth for his family's marijuana business that they run out of Humboldt County on June 2, 2018. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

"It kinda feels like we're not as set up as everybody else, but you know, family run business, people respect that," Richard says. "And I feel like we're doing alright. We're growing so fast, we've had to hire other people."

This weekend, he's excited to sell his favorite strain: McKinleyville Blackberry Kush. His family spent months scouring marijuana crops throughout McKinleyville before eventually finding it, and he's proud to show it off.

"It is off the chain," he said.

Cannabis Cup attendees could also buy clothing alongside marijuana.
Cannabis Cup attendees could also buy clothing alongside marijuana. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)