VICTORVILLE — The increase in marijuana-themed festivals coming to the High Desert Event Center hasn’t gone unnoticed by city officials, who have vigorously opposed them to state officials.
The three-day Chalice California Music, Glass, Hash and Art Festival is scheduled for the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in July, but Victorville officials have taken a stand against the event dubbed the “Biggest Hash Festival in America.”
“The Chalice California Festival is not endorsed by the Victorville City Council,” said city spokeswoman Sue Jones, who told the Daily Press the Council unanimously opposes this event and any event that promotes the use of recreational drugs.
Jones said Mayor Gloria Garcia recently sent the 28th Agricultural Association Board a letter detailing the Council’s unanimous opposition to the Chalice California festival, urging the board to cancel it at the state-operated site.
“Our greatest concern is the safety of our citizens, and for this reason, we have been in communication with our police force regarding the Chalice event,” Jones said. “They have assured us that they are prepared to enforce all applicable laws during the festival.”
Chalice will feature a lengthy musical lineup, which includes the popular hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and rapper Machine Gun Kelly. The event also includes live demonstrations of glass, paint and artists, as well as the use of medical marijuana in designated areas.
Several promoters and a member of the High Desert Cannabis Association said many cannabis promoters chose the Victorville fairgrounds or National Orange Show in San Bernardino because most large venues in Southern California have banned marijuana-themed events.
Because the local fairgrounds has welcomed so many cannabis events, many promoters think the Victorville site is “cannabis-friendly,” said HDCA member Kasha Herrington.
People on both sides of the cannabis issue told the Daily Press not all promoters, venues and cannabis-themed events are equal, with some having strict rules and some having a no-holds-barred attitude.
Event promoters and representatives from the High Desert Cannabis Association, who advocate for medical-marijuana use with accountability and various restrictions, told the Daily Press some people in the cannabis industry will give the movement a bad name and undo much of what they’re advocating.
John Mendoza, the founder and promoter of the Abra Ca Dabs Festival, told the paper he brought his two-day event to the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in March. Visitors listened to live bands, enjoyed food and drink, looked at art, visited vendors and entered the “CA Prop 215 medicating area,” with a valid doctor’s recommendation.
“There are some promoters who do it just for the money,” said Mendoza, who started the festival nearly 10 years ago after he began taking medical cannabis because of injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. “We started the yearly festival in a bar with 300 people and it’s grown to 5,500.”
Mendoza, 37, said he keeps the Abra Ca Dabs events “under the radar” so only those who have a passion for responsible medical marijuana know about them.
“Most marijuana use has changed over the years and has become more like a wine or beer tasting event,” Mendoza said. “There are different strains, tastes and potencies, and people like to gather to consume legally and to talk.”
Mendoza said he’s had little to no problems after promoting dozens of “low-key” events across Southern California. He added that his big concern comes from unscrupulous promoters and vendors in the industry who will “tarnish the reputations” of those abiding by a strict code of “legal conduct.”
“Cannabis use gets blamed for everything, instead of people looking at the promoter or venue host,” Mendoza said. “We need an educated community and promoters with integrity who won’t burden the taxpayers or police by being reckless and irresponsible. Public safety is number one.”
Captain Sam Lucia of the Victorville Sheriff’s Station said his department will plan for the impact, and staff additional personnel and resources on event days, adding that the upcoming Chalice festival includes a lot of additional staff and resources.
“Although the SBC Fair plans their own events and makes their own business decisions, they generally include the Police/Sheriff in pre-event meetings,” Lucia said. “Based on those meetings, SBC Fair CEO Geoff Hinds relies heavily on Police/Sheriff recommendations regarding the number of additional staff to make an event safe.”
Hinds said the fairgrounds is a state-owned public assembly venue, with event contracts approved by the fair board. He added that all events must be properly vetted and pass a certain litmus test that includes legalities, safety, financial prudence and the benefits to the community.
“It’s not our job to determine morality, but to adhere to our vetting process,” Hind said. “Events may not meet our personal moral standards, nor is it something we can force.”
Lucia said the station has a “great working relationship” with Hinds regarding these matters, adding the event promoter foots the bill for the additional staffing costs, which they are required to pre-pay.
“Whether the Sheriff’s Department agrees or disagrees with the type of events hosted by the fair, we still have an obligation to police our city and will continue to do so,” Lucia said.
Herrington said her group is working with the fairgrounds to help guide them as they work with various promoters and vendors. She also remarked that the group polices events undercover to ensure that laws are not being broken.