San Francisco

Wine, Beer and Weed: Grass Lands Brings Legal Cannabis to Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco

One of the world's highest-grossing music festivals is now also one of the world's highest — as Outside Lands becomes the first major festival to bring legal cannabis on board

What to Know

  • Outside Lands is the first major music festival to allow sales and consumption of cannabis on-site
  • San Francisco approved a permit for the Grass Lands area in Golden Gate Park just two days before the event
  • Cannabis companies say it's a chance to reach customers who wouldn't walk into a dispensary

Just as wine goes with cheese, some would say music pairs perfectly with cannabis — and now, guests at the annual Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park can enjoy both pairings.

To be fair, cannabis has long been a fixture at music festivals. But now, for the first time, it's happening legally.

"This is a history-making event," said Kristi Knoblich-Palmer, co-founder of Oakland-based Kiva Confections, which makes weed-infused chocolates and candies.

In a 21-and-up area called Grass Lands, tucked away in the woods beside the Outside Lands main stage, cannabis brands set up exhibits and sample counters, while a dispensary partner rings up cash-only sales. A gray haze hangs over the spacious decks with tables and chairs where festivalgoers unwrap their pre-rolled joints and vape cartridges, inhaling deeply as they listen to the performers onstage in the distance.

"I never thought I'd see this day — this is amazing," said one woman wearing a cowboy hat and carrying the ubiquitous clear backpack that's now becoming standard gear at festivals.

"It's a long time coming," said a man visiting from Colorado, where he says he's never had a chance to buy weed at a festival. "This is pretty great."

This is actually the second time Grass Lands has appeared at Outside Lands — but the first time was sort of a tease. Without the proper licensing — or even the proper systems in place to apply for it — there were no sales or consumption allowed. Vendors treated the first Grass Lands as an education event — a theme still present even with pot now available for sale.

"It is a different crowd than what we see in a dispensary," Knoblich Palmer said. "Inside of Grass Lands we're getting people who are just simply curious. They may not know what questions to ask when they get to a dispensary. They may be intimidated by the whole shopping experience."

Knoblich Palmer said she hopes that one day cannabis will be sold right alongside beer, wine, liquor and food at booths throughout the festival. Grass Lands, she said, is the first step toward normalizing the use and sale of a product that was illegal for generations.

London Vanderkamp, sales director at cannabis brand Cookies, recalled how it used to be — hand-rolled joints passed around through the crowd as bands played onstage.

"Now, you have to smoke here, and you have to smoke over there, instead of smoking wherever you want," Vanderkamp said. "But that's part of the process."

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