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World’s First: California State Fair to Host Onsite Sales and Consumption

California State Fair Awards
PHOTOS California Cannabis State Fair


World’s First: California State Fair to Host Onsite Sales and Consumption

For its 170th Anniversary, the California State Fair shines a bright spotlight on this $5 billion segment of California’s agricultural industry.

The California State Fair issued a press release earlier today announcing that the annual event will be making history with this year’s introduction of onsite cannabis sales and consumption. This marks the first time cannabis will be legally sold at a state fair, signaling a growing acceptance of the plant. Held in Sacramento from July 12-28, the 2024 California State Fair will also feature an expanded cannabis competition which aims to offer consumer education and awareness.

These new changes are a continuation of the California State Fair’s leadership on cannabis following legislation signed by the governor allowing for licensed cannabis events to take place. In 2022, the California State Fair introduced an educational cannabis exhibit and awards competition to showcase the plant alongside California’s other agricultural bounty, such as wine, cheese, olive oil and craft beer. The exhibit continued to grow in 2023 with informative programming that aimed to educate the canna-curious and also honor farmers. While there were 250 entries for last year’s competition, this year’s contest has over doubled in size with more than 500 entries, making it the largest state-sanctioned cannabis competition of its kind.

Mercy Grown posing with their award at the 2023 Cannabis Competition.

“Hosting cannabis sales and consumption is a groundbreaking milestone in destigmatization by facilitating a deeper connection between consumers and the farmers who cultivate their products with such care,” said Lauren Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of Embarc, the fair’s partner in facilitating onsite sales and consumption.

When speaking with Cannabis Now about Embarc’s work in destigmatizing and mainstreaming cannabis, Carpenter shared that the retail business goes community by community, often in conservative communities that are reticent to have local cannabis businesses. “We work for years to build local coalitions to drive the movement forward while destigmatizing cannabis,” she said. “At the California State Fair, we can show people through action the vibrancy of California cannabis in a place and space they might not have had exposure to.”

Embarc Co-Founder Dustin Moore also weighed in: “The California State Fair Competition turns 170 this year, making it the perfect time to celebrate cannabis, California’s largest agricultural crop by value. We want the small farms we are celebrating to be able to stand alongside farmers from traditional agriculture, shoulder to shoulder, while validating the cannabis industry.”

California farmers at the 2023 Cannabis Competition and Exhibit.

The cannabis exhibition hall for state fair attendees ages 21 and over is packed with educational information about the state’s cannabis history and exhibits of top California brands and farms. Attendees can scan QR codes to learn more about Golden Bear award-winning products, add items to a virtual shopping basket and purchase them at Embarc’s on-site dispensary. The area will feature a 30,000-square-foot consumption lounge where attendees can try winning products from diverse farms and brands across California.

“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,” said James Leitz, executive producer of the Cannabis Competition and Exhibit.

As part of this commitment to consumer education and awareness, this year’s cannabis competition was expanded to include product categories for pre-rolls, concentrates, cartridges, edibles, beverages and wellness products in addition to flower, enhancing the science-based testing with additional judging by a panel of experts. ­­

Tom Martinez, CEO of the California State Fair, says the expanded cannabis offerings are intended to help amplify California’s agricultural role while providing farmers with a platform to share their stories. He also spoke to the importance of event safety: “We have partnered with the City of Sacramento, the State of California, James Leitz and Embarc—alongside our robust onsite public health and safety infrastructure—to ensure a responsible and community-sensitive event. We look forward to welcoming visitors from across the state and beyond to this informative experience.”

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