.Santa Cruz’s First (Legal) Weed-Friendly Music Festival

When Colin Disheroon was planning Santa Cruz County’s first ever public, cannabis-friendly event and music festival, he didn’t know the logistics would spill over into his European honeymoon, too.

“It was a nine-hour time difference, and I was dealing with the bureaucracy from California trying to get a license for the event,” says Disheroon, the CEO of Aptos-based dispensary Santa Cruz Naturals. “The Bureau of Cannabis Control is overwhelmed right now.” 

The Power of Flower event is first and foremost a music festival, with Ozomatli and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band headlining, but it’s also a public marijuana consumption event (no alcohol allowed). There will be 30-plus vendors selling joints, edibles and more for attendees 21 and over to enjoy on-site. 

Planning began in April after the idea surfaced during a Santa Cruz Naturals team meeting. The county fairgrounds only had one open date that would work, so Disheroon and his team hit the ground running.

“Frankly, it’s a pretty substantial undertaking to put an event like this together,” Disheroon says. “You have to get three different types of licences to do it, plus the large amount of money and the team dedicated to producing it. There are some big factors. That’s probably why there hasn’t been an event like this.” 

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Typically, large-scale cannabis events include a separate area for consumption, like a lounge, that restricts use to one area, he says. There hasn’t been a music event with open consumption in the state, or even in the country, as far as Disheroon knows. 

“The ordinance that was developed around cannabis events happened in August 2018. That was in response to an unregulated sales event that happened at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds,” he says. “Part of the reason why there haven’t been any consumption events at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds until now is because the regulations around cannabis events have been evolving.”

This is Disheroon’s first time managing a major music event, let alone one that includes public consumption. Although he didn’t disclose a total budget, he says that between normal event expenses, fees and insurance, “It has not been cheap.” 

The amount of bureaucracy involved was also surprising.

“It was above and beyond what I think is reasonable,” Disheroon says. “It’s the first legal, licensed cannabis consumption event in the whole region. With that came a lot of interesting political stuff.” 

Many other local dispensaries, including West Cliff Wellness and KindPeoples, would also like to see on-site consumption allowed, but permitting has lagged demand. Public consumption at events is allowed if organizers have the time and funding to jump through hoops on the state level. 

The Power of Flower event is one of only four consumption events that could be allowed annually at the County Fairgrounds under a 2018 resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors. Another cannabis event is scheduled for October, but similar events are not allowed elsewhere in the county.  

“While the Fairgrounds has hosted cannabis-related events before, this is the first to allow on-site consumption,” Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin told GT in an email. “In this case, the operator has a state license and the county granted a temporary use permit.”

Event organizers are also ramping up security after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting on July 28, when three people were killed. “We are going to be the next local music event after the Gilroy tragedy happened,” Disheroon says. “Though the likelihood of something like that happening again in close proximity is extremely low, we want to make sure we are ensuring the safety of attendees.”

All proceeds from the festival will be donated to local charities, including one that supports those affected by the Gilroy shooting. The other is a Watsonville-based organization that focuses on job development. The names of both beneficiaries will not be released since they receive federal funding, and federal law still prohibits cannabis use.

“It’s a passion for me to be able to have music and cannabis together, legally,” Disheroon says. “When you go back to New Orleans jazz history, all of those jazz guys were smoking joints.’” 

Power of Flower will take place noon-10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. powerofflower.org. $30 adv/$40 door. 


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