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Coachella Bans Marijuana, Despite CA Legalization

Coachella Bans Cannabis Now
Photo Jason Persse/Flickr


Coachella Bans Marijuana, Despite CA Legalization

The popular festival has never allowed marijuana consumption on its grounds, and it will continue to uphold the ban in 2018 — even though California’s new laws mean they could allow cannabis consumption if they wanted to.

Once again, Coachella has announced it will ban legal marijuana at the festival — but you’ll have no problem getting a drink or smoking a pack of cigarettes.

Given that it is most likely that plenty of joints will still be surreptitiously sparked this year under hats both Yoko Ono and Queen Elizabeth would be proud of, it remains unclear why Coachella would ban a substance that has been legal for adult consumption in California since November 2016.

As Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News notes, “The festival could allow you to smoke your own weed inside the event. But they don’t want to.”

So, why has Coachella banned cannabis? Is this a play by a mega-festival at continued appeasement of the community that hosts them (Indio, California) or is a deeper corporate culture at play in this case?

It would be easy to point to the town of Indio as the culprit. But in reality, they seem to be playing more of a wait-and-see approach as opposed to outright reefer madness when it comes to legislating the plant. Last October, Indio Mayor Mike Wilson noted, “Sometimes you don’t want to be the first one through the door, sometimes you want to let others go first and let them make the mistakes,” according to the Desert Sun.

Part of the argument against Indio making an early push at the California recreational cannabis market is because of the costs associated with the push, as many communities with thriving markets often find themselves caught up in court trying to get rid of unlicensed establishments. Of course, communities such as Indio also might have been a lot more prepared to both deal with those kinds of issues with retailers and for Jan. 1 sales had they previously had proper cannabis regulations in place. In some circumstances, one might say the only thing Indio is waiting to see is how big their neighbors in the Coachella Valley — such as Palm Springs — are winning.

But instead of everyone winning big, the festival’s FAQ again this year answers the big “Can I bring legal pot?” question with a quippy response. “Sorry bro,” the FAQ reads. “Marijuana or marijuana products aren’t allowed inside the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Even in 2018 and beyond. If that changes we will update this answer.”

This is technically an upgrade from last year’s answer, which read: “Sorry bro. Medical marijuana cards are not valid at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Even in 2017 and beyond. If that changes so will this answer.”

In Coachella’s explanation for why they have banned marijuana again, the festival links to a Los Angeles Daily News piece where Indio Police Sergeant Dan Marshall gives an effective analogy on why you can not smoke pot at the festival, despite it taking place on private property.

“The promoter has a standing right to the property, and they can determine what can and cannot be brought onto the premises,” Marshall said. “[For instance] you have the right to bear arms, but you don’t have the right to bear arms in my house.”

In terms of corporate culture, Coachella might have banned marijuana again because the festival’s owner, Phil Anschutz, has proven himself to be anti-legalization. During the lead up to Colorado’s adult use ballot initiative, a Colorado newspaper that Anschutz owns — the Colorado Springs Gazette — published a lengthy four-part editorial feature against cannabis legalization that went much further than your standard anti-pot publication.

Either way, Coachella will remain a pot-free zone for the foreseeable future.

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