California State Fair to Host Cannabis Vendors

Stephen Andrews
26 Jun 2024

California’s annual state fair is scheduled for July and it will mark the first time a US state fair allows cannabis retail and competitions. State fairs typically feature select vendors to present various agricultural goods representative of the state. For California, those goods have traditionally included wine, cheese, olive oil, and craft beer. The addition of cannabis happens to fall on the 170th anniversary edition of the California State Fair.

State fairs in the U.S. are famous for fried foods, carnival rides, and presenting the best farmed goods a state has to offer. In 2024, one state fair is about to get famous for also offering weed to customers. 

The California State Fair will permit the sales of legal weed on its premises once it kicks off in July. Event organizers announced earlier this month that fair-goers will be able to purchase marijuana on the spot during the 17-day run of the event, which opens July 12. The moment is seen as another important step on the path to normalize cannabis use in the U.S. 

More than half a million visitors attended the Californian fair in 2023. Last year’s edition featured an educational exhibit of cannabis, which is a great opportunity for a lot of people to get familiar and educated on the plant. Of course, who gets to buy weed this year will be a controlled experience, only allowed for those of legal age. 

California State Fair is First in the U.S. to Permit On-Site Cannabis Sales 

Organizers' move to permit legal weed purchases at a state fair comes at a time when over half of Americans have access to legal cannabis products for recreational use. California legalized marijuana back in 2016 and is the biggest cannabis market nationwide, so it just might be setting a trend for others in the years to come.  

The California State Fair initially introduced the educational cannabis exhibit in 2022, along with a competition to showcase cannabis cultivars with other local commodities. Expanding with cannabis sales and consumption on the event jubilee edition is building on the success of that initiative, as much as opening a new chapter in the fair’s long tradition. 

“Hosting cannabis sales and consumption is a groundbreaking milestone in destigmatization by facilitating a deeper connection between consumers and the farmers who cultivate their product with such care,” said a statement from Lauren Carpenter, co-founder of Embarc, the cannabis operator that steps in as a co-organizer of the fair’s marijuana retail this year. 

The marijuana dispensary and consumption lounge at the Cal Expo in Sacramento will only permit fair attendees aged 21 and above to enter the area. Visitors can QR scan to find out more about Golden Bear award-winning products, add items to a virtual shopping cart, and complete transactions at Embarc’s on-site dispensary. 

The area will enclose a 30,000-square-foot consumption lounge, accessible via a separate path to provide attendees of legal age an option to try the select cannabis products straight away. They will be able to choose from dozens of Californian brands. 

“This initiative spotlights the significant role of cannabis in California’s agricultural industry, marking a major milestone in the state fair’s 170-year history,” said James Leitz, Executive Producer of the Cannabis Competition and Exhibit. “Expanding the competition to include all form factors and providing patrons the opportunity to directly engage with and consume winning brands is transformational for public understanding of the plant.” 

Leitz added that the contest had expanded to include product categories looking to recognize pre-rolls, edibles, concentrates, cartridges, drinkables, wellness products, and more. The 2024 edition of the contest has attracted 500 entries, which is twice more the entries seen last year.  

A few other states have also allowed cannabis events in a similar format, but none has been bigger than the California State Fair thus far. An example is the Cannabis Growers Showcases in New York state in 2023, a stopgap program that sought to help farmers unload cannabis goods before going stale, but it appears the initiative was short-lived and it’s unknown whether it will hosted again.

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Stephen Andrews