California was the first state to legalize cannabis in any format and it’s also been among the first to establish specific regulation on the state level for event organizers looking to safely and legally host a cannabis event. Since 1996, Proposition 215 was the guiding legislation for what was commonly known as “seshes” or “Prop 215 Events” and operated under medical cannabis laws that enabled cooperatives and collectives to transfer product to one another.

As of January 9th, 2019, these provisions reached their sunset, and those operating as one of these entities must apply for a license with the state to remain legally compliant with the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. While gifting remains legal under California law, no amenable compensation may be exchanged for gifted cannabis at events or otherwise unless operating in a licensed environment.

Hosting Cannabis Events

Under California law, social consumption is newly legal as is the sale of licensed cannabis products at events. Cannabis events, including consumption and sales, fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). Organizers wishing to host public, ticketed events that allow consumption and sales must possess both a Cannabis event Organizer License as well as a Temporary Cannabis event License issued by the BCC. Anyone can apply for an organizer license, but only those with organizer licenses can apply for temporary event licenses. You can apply for these licenses online using the BCC website.

There is a $1,000 application fee that organizers must pay in addition to an annual organizer license fee that is determined by the number of events that will be organized in a given year, ranging from $3,000 for up to three events to $20,000 for organizers planning to host more than 20 events in one year. Once you receive your organizer license, you must obtain written approval from the local jurisdiction where you intend to host your event, which is then submitted to the BCC along with an additional $1,000 application fee per event permit application at least 60 days in advance of the start of the event. Changes to the application, including a final list of licensed vendors as part of your Notification and Requests form, must be submitted no later than 72 hours in advance of the event.

Events that allow licensed cannabis sales and consumption must also prohibit tobacco and alcohol sales and consumption. Private events held at personal residences are not subject to BCC licensing and may allow possession and consumption at the discretion of the property owner so long as there is explicitly no commercial cannabis activity of any kind. There is a big discrepancy as the laws were written for large, “cannabis cup”-style events rather than small gatherings like a yoga session that might involve a joint being passed around.

“As an event planner, you can get a license for consumption events; they give away those licenses,” explains Crystal Bauer Feldman, Founder of Arcane Revelry, Host of Elite and Elevated, and LA Weekly’s cannabis events production partner. “There isn’t really a small gathering-type event license that allows you to throw the type of parties that I throw and have weed there for people to openly consume at a public event. That doesn’t exist.” Events like Elite and Elevated, where there are no consumption or sales are deemed “informational and educational” only and do not require a BCC event license nor does the organizer require an annual organizer license.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are advertising the event to the public (no invite-only policy), charging a cover or selling tickets, holding the event on a licensed cannabis business’ property or if your event involves the direct or indirect sale of cannabis goods, then it is a public event. Keep in mind that any advertising surrounding the event must meet state standards mandating at least 71.6% of the audience advertised to is 21 years of age or older.

California Cannabis Event Quick Facts:

Average California Event Ticket Cost: $92
Average Size of event (# of tickets sold): 97
Average Sponsorship Cost: $3,480
Consumption vs Nonconsumption Ratio: 76% Consumption / 24% Non-consumption
Top 5 event types in order: Food & Drinks, Party, Meet Up, Health & Medicine, Workshop

*The data has been collected from EventHi’s marketplace for California from 2018-2019

Working with Licensed Cannabis Brands

California companies that hold a license to work in the cannabis industry can participate, sponsor and exhibit at cannabis events whether there are sales and consumption or not, though only those that hold retail licenses may vend their licensed product on-site at their booths. Organizers wishing to work with brands and cultivators that do not have a retail license can partner with third-party distributors like Meadow that allow for compliant point-of-sale systems, partnerships with distributor and retail license holders, as well as an on-site, compliant point of distribution that allows brands to vend under the partnered license while exhibiting at their own booths.

It is important to note that the burden of compliances falls solely on the organizer with the license. “Make sure that you have a really solid compliance team that understands the nuances of the law [and] make sure you have solid distribution and solid retail and solid licensed brands that are coming to work with you,” advises Ryan Bush of Meadow. It is imperative that the brands and businesses that you work with are up to par with your organization’s standards as the penalties for violations will be assessed to you as the organizer. Working with unlicensed brands and dispensaries adds unnecessary risk that puts both you and the licensed brands you work with at risk. “Definitely avoid working with brands and dispensaries that are unlicensed at this point in CA. You may find two good looking brands, but only one has no license. Working with unlicensed people really puts licensed brands at risk,” Feldman explains.

If you’re considering hosting a cannabis event in California, the EventHi team is here to help. We offer a safe-hosting environment for event creators across the United States to host, promote and sell tickets using EventHi’s platform. Let EventHi help you through the process. Get started by hosting your event today on EventHi’s marketplace.

Written by Ben Owen, contributing writer from EventHi, Inc.

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