None of about a dozen marijuana dispensaries planned in Ontario will be open by April 20 — a popular day for marijuana users — but there will be an all-day cannabis festival in town that day.
The first Eastern Oregon Cannabis Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 N.W. 9th St. in Ontario. It’s for adults only who are 21 or older. Cost is $5.
Also that day, Hotbox Farms co-owner Steven Meland told the Statesman that the company will be celebrating the grand opening of its CBD store, at 183 E. Idaho Avenue; it will be the second CBD-focused store in Ontario, and the only one with a drive-thru. Cannabis and/or CBD drive-thrus have already opened in other states, including Nevada and Vermont.
Golden Nugget, a CBD-focused shop, opened last month at 180 East Lane #5, the city’s development director said.
Hotbox plans to give free trial-size products to every customer on April 20, while supplies last, Meland said.
The Eastern Oregon Cannabis Festival comes on the heels of the city repealing its ban on marijuana sales last November.
“If you know nothing about cannabis, you can show up and learn,” Freddy Rodriguez, an Ontario city councilman, said of the festival.
There will be live music all day, with headliner Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats, and food, informational exhibits and about 85 vendors, including some selling cannabis products. None of the products for sale will contain THC, the psychoactive drug that gives users a high, according to organizer Stormy Ray.
“I know there’s a little bit of concern because they’re not sure what we’re going to do,” Ray told the Statesman in a phone interview from her home in Ontario on Tuesday. “We’re going to have a good time and abide by Oregon laws 100 percent. There’s no smoking on the fairgrounds, including tobacco vapor pens.”
She said she’s watched numerous videos online of hemp festivals where people are openly smoking joints or pipes.
“That won’t be happening here,” she said. Though marijuana is legal in Oregon, it’s not legal to use it in public.
Festival-goers will have to show IDs to enter the fairgrounds and also to go into the beer garden or a private station that will be set up for those who use medical marijuana. There will be security, as state law requires that for the beer garden.
Ray, who has multiple sclerosis, was a co-chief petitioner for the 1998 ballot measure that created Oregon’s medical marijuana program. She also established a foundation, Stormy Ray Cardholders Foundation, which educates the public on the benefits of and myths about cannabis, and has a network of volunteers around Oregon to help those looking for guidance.
Ray said she uses different strains of cannabis as a sleep aid, for indigestion and for pain.
“It’s a plant, and my body doesn’t reject it,” she said.
“We’ve tried really hard to bring the good news about cannabis to the people,” she said of the foundation, which has put on other informational events, but this is its first festival.
The Malheur County Fairgrounds, which last year was rebranded as Desert Sage Event Center, is about 40 acres, according to facility manager Lynelle Christiani. There are now about 100 events held there annually.
“[Cannabis] is legal in the state of Oregon, and it should not be any different than any group renting,” Christiani said. “It will be like a beer fest, with cannabis instead of beer.”
The festival has rented two large commercial buildings, totaling about 13,000 square feet, and a grassy area in between. There are RV spaces next to the building.
Organizers have no idea how many people will come to the festival. Ray said they’re expecting at least a thousand but are prepared for as many as 3,000-5,000.