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Giant cannabis trade show could be headed to Ventura County Fairgrounds

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The Ventura County Fairgrounds has entered into a tentative agreement to offer its first-ever cannabis event — a two-day trade show in March expected to attract 4,000 people representing retailers, marijuana brands and other parts of the industry.

After a presentation Tuesday for the well-known Hall of Flowers trade show, fairgrounds CEO Jen McGuire said a contract is being drawn up for the show to lease space at the Ventura fairgrounds on March 13-14. Before the deal becomes official, it will have to be approved by the fairgrounds board of directors and also be reviewed by the state, which owns the site.

The Hall of Flowers shows, held once a year in Northern California and in Southern California, bring together sellers of an array of marijuana products with dispensaries looking to make orders that are delivered to their businesses at a later time. The event is invitation-only and closed to the general public in a distinction important to fairground leaders making their first foray at cultivating a new revenue stream and attracting the attention of fair boards across California.

“It really is the future,” McGuire said. “I feel like we have to get onboard or get left behind.”

Exact terms have not been revealed but the show could bring in more than $50,000 in revenue to the fairgrounds, including parking receipts, according to staff projections.

Booths display marijuana buds, edibles, concentrates, tinctures and a wide array of accessories. A trade show held in Cathedral City last year was described by the Desert Sun newspaper as an Ikea for cannabis.

"It’s a one-stop shop. It’s for buyers and brands to meet," said Hall of Flowers CEO Dani Diamond. "That's where people get to see brands and explore new products that they haven’t thought about."

People can smoke product samples in consumption areas located at least 20 feet away from any buildings. Fairgrounds board Director Dan Long suggested the smoking areas could be moved even farther away from buildings.

In September, directors adopted California Department of Food & Agriculture guidelines that push fair boards planning cannabis events to consider issues like proximity to schools and the need for show operators to obtain a temporary state license for onsite sales and consumption. The guidelines open the door to the invitation-only trade show event, McGuire said.

Work has also begun on drafting up a comprehensive policy to deal with any future cannabis shows at the fairgrounds, including events that could be open to the public.

Diamond told board members the industry is heavily regulated and that event organizers use “robust” measures including security guards, police officers and emergency medical professionals. He said the show has been in talks with the fairgrounds for several months in pursuit of a base near Los Angeles.

“We are hoping this will be our So Cal home,” he said, also citing the economic benefits the event could bring Ventura. “Every room in town will be booked.”

In a September fair board meeting, some directors said decisions on cannabis events should wait until a full policy is in place. On Tuesday, Director M. Cecilia Cuevas urged directors to support cannabis shows, citing the additional revenue and comparing the events to the gun shows the fairgrounds held at the site for many years before state legislation brought a ban in January.

“Personally, I believe flowers (are) a lot better than weapons,” she said.



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