Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jun 2017
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Fresno Bee
Author: Rory Appleton


A new state law allows pot sales at county fairs, but will yours go

A minor clause in a recently passed California State Senate bill could
lead to a dramatic increase in funnel cake sales at county fairs
across the state.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB-94, which combined the medical
and recreational marijuana laws into one set of rules. The massive
bill includes a section that allows for cannabis sales on state-owned
fairgrounds -- either at county fairs or during private events --
provided certain conditions are met. These include securing proper
permits and, in the case of county fairs, having a designated enclosed
space for pot. No recreational marijuana sales are legal until Jan.

But will the counties that make up the conservative central San
Joaquin Valley -- an area tough on pot and often opposed to the will
of policymakers in Sacramento -- allow this?

Probably not.

The CEOs of the Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Madera county fairs had
reactions that ranged from cautious suspicion to disgust when asked
about the new rules. Three said a final decision would come after
their governing boards had time to analyze the new rule, but the
largest of the four offered a definitive response.

"The Big Fresno Fair has no plans at this time to allow any
cannabis-related vendors at the annual Big Fresno Fair, nor hold or
permit cannabis-related events at the Fresno Fairgrounds as part of
our year-round rental facility operations," said John Alkire, CEO for
The Big Fresno Fair.

Alkire's stance is in line with both the city that surrounds the
state-owned fairgrounds and the county that shares its name. The city
of Fresno voted last week to move forward on various pot-related bans,
while the county has maintained strict rules that include a
$1,000-per-plant fine that has led to several court battles.

Madera District Fair CEO Tom Mitchell said his fair does not have a
policy regarding cannabis sales, as it is waiting for guidelines from
the state to decide either way. He noted that Madera has not received
any requests to host a marijuana-related event.

"The Fair is an integral part of the community and a place where
families and community come together to celebrate and have fun,"
Mitchell said. "As we discuss cannabis events in the future we will
certainly keep this in mind along with considering local ordinances
that currently prohibit commercial cannabis activities."

Recreational marijuana sales will begin in California on Jan. 1.

In Hanford, where voters will decide in 2018 whether to allow some
commercial pot activity, the Kings Fair is going to wait and see. CEO
Angie Avila said the fair's governing board will consult with the city
of Hanford and its police department, as well as state guidelines from
the California Division of Fairs and Expositions, before making any

Tulare County has a few legal medical cannabis dispensaries, but
Tulare County Fair CEO Pamela Fyock said she'd likely echo Alkire's
comments after talking it over with her board.

"It has the potential to bring a lot of problems to the fair," she
said. "We work very hard to make sure this is a safe, family-friendly

However, Fyock does not have an issue with adults-only cannabis events
at the fairgrounds. In fact, Tulare has already hosted one such event.

"I was very skeptical and met with our law enforcement partners
first," she said. "We had a clear plan. But (the promoters) were easy
to deal with, and there were absolutely zero problems. I see these
shows progressing."

While she isn't likely to favor pot sales at county fairs, Fyock said
that information booths designed to educate people about the plant
could be a good idea.

Whether the fairs in the nation's top agricultural region will follow
Oregon's lead and allow for blue-ribbon cannabis plants also remains
to be seen.
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