Before the grass of Golden Gate Park graced the sand-swept dunes that once covered the Sunset and Richmond districts of San Francisco, when the land was still wild, and not yet part of the city, it was called the Outside Lands. In 1866, the Outside Lands officially were brought inside the city limits, but they remained an untamed coastal desert. That same year, Frederick Law Olmstead, the architect of New York’s Central Park, was visiting the area and proposed a massive public park to connect the city to the bay, spanning the length of the Outside Lands. It took five more years to begin construction, and it wasn’t until 1880 that the park officially opened for visitors.
That same time period saw the end of the steam trains, to be replaced by horse-drawn rail cars, which were then fully-replaced by cable cars in 1883. With an abundance of rail cars left unused, and not enough affordable housing to go around, many San Francisco residents bought those cars and converted them into a shanty town near the ocean-end of Golden Gate Park and so Carville by the Sea was born. Carville was known for very hip parties and well-dressed Victorian dandies on fixed gear bicycles, in other words, it was the home of the original San Francisco hipsters.
Starting in 2008, the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival (OSL) takes its name from that rich and wild history, and gives the current generation of hipsters a venue to see some of the hottest musical acts while enjoying delicious food and copious amounts of alcohol. Over the years, OSL has added different “Lands” where festival-goers can check out all kinds of alcoholic delights. The first land to be added was Wine Lands, profiling all manner of incredible wines from California and beyond. Next, they added Beer Lands to the mix, and then a few years later, after the rise of the SF mixology scene, they added Cocktail Magic. This year marks a big change from previous years with the addition of a land focused on something other than alcohol, Grass Lands, the home of everything green and skunky at OSL.
With the addition of Grass Lands, OSL is the first major American music festival to add any sort of major cannabis-focused content. While the High Times Cannabis Cup does have musical acts and cannabis consumption, it is a cannabis festival that happens to have music, rather than a music festival with a cannabis educational area. Having gone to both festivals, it is clear that the focus at High Times is in the name of the event, getting high, whereas OSL is primarily a music festival, but with a lot of other offerings for festival-goers to indulge in. Despite the plethora of ways to indulge, one of the first things I heard walking over to Grass Lands was a man telling his friends, “it’s still early and there is already a massive migration to Grass Lands,” and he was right, Grass Lands was packed and the festival had pretty much just opened.
No Grass in Grass Lands
Unfortunately, due to California’s current cannabis regulations, an event that is licensed for cannabis consumption and sales cannot serve alcohol, which made things tricky when it came to organizing Grass Lands, because OSL serves lots of booze and needs that revenue to put on the event. As a result of regulatory issues, there was no cannabis consumption in Grass Lands this year, but there is hope that in future years it could be allowed. In order to be a licensed cannabis event, OSL would have had to be located at a state fairgrounds.
Where the Grass is Greener
Like San Francisco itself, OSL is very progressive and supportive of cannabis legalization. In that spirit, Grass Lands was a huge success as an educational experience for the throngs of cannabis newcomers out there since adult use legalization when live Jan. 1. It had a terpene wall that let you experience the aromas of six of the main terpenes that give cannabis its myriad scents, then after finding your favorite, you could walk a few feet over to get terpene-infused lemonade. All throughout the area were signs with quotes from American Presidents talking about cannabis, or other phrases relating to cannabis, such as, “A friend with weed is a friend indeed.”
Flow Kana was there with a full-on farmers’ market, complete with various fruits and vegetables that were part of a carving competition, that resulted in many vegetable pipes and fruit bongs. Berner, and the legendary Bay Area strain Cookies, had a posh set up in the Country Club, right next to Lagunitas Brewing Company, which was giving out non-medicated samples of their hops-infused sparkling water, HiFi Hops. Many other Bay Area favorites were there, including Oakland-based manufacturer Jetty Extracts, the Barbary Coast dispensary, PAX vaporizers, and Ona.life delivery. KIVA had whipped up some special non-medicated experimental flavors of their Petra mints just for OSL, including lemongrass, pink lemonade, wild berry, pineapple, pineapple habanero, apricot and mandarin orange. One company, Sunday Goods, came all the way from Arizona just to showcase their products in Grass Lands.
While there was a range of companies at Grass Lands, it is interesting that there were no hemp companies represented, selling T-shirts, hats, hemp foods, or even hemp-derived CBD topicals. That was one area that multiple cannabis-industry employees I spoke to mentioned could be expanded in future years. Another area that many cannabis users would definitely like to see expanded in future years is actually allowing cannabis consumption and medicated samples, still, the majority of people I spoke with were very impressed with what they experienced in Grass Lands.
Out of the Grass Lands and on to the Stage
Cannabis wasn’t just prominently featured in Grass Lands, multiple musicians showed their love of marijuana on stage. On Friday, the rising country star Margo Price got crowds warmed up with an amazing cover of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” and so many people lit up I had to stop taking photos for a couple of minutes while the smoke cleared. Price doesn’t just sing about her love of cannabis, she has opened for Willie Nelson multiple times and is soon going to launch an indica strain with Willie’s Reserve out in Colorado. When it comes to smoking her cannabis, Price likes it all-natural.
“I like to smoke out of an apple with a magnifying glass,” she said. “It just tastes better and there is no butane.”
When asked her what her favorite strain was, she had a hard time narrowing it down, but said one of them was Cookies. Price isn’t alone in her love of Cookies, and serious fans of the strain and the lifestyle brand popularized by Berner were out in force on Saturday night to see the man himself rock the Panhandle Stage. Aside from the chance to see Berner perform on Saturday, fans had plenty of time to meet him in the Cookie’s Country Club in Grass Lands all weekend long.
From the Grass Lands to the stage, and everywhere in between, OSL was a cannabis lover’s paradise, full of good food, good music, and lots of intoxicants. Unfortunately, the current state laws prohibit legal cannabis consumption during the festival, but that is no different from the last decade of OSL and it has never stopped anyone before.
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