San Jose entrepreneurs urge the city to allow cannabis events

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A San Jose entrepreneur wants the city to broaden their horizons and host special events at museums, concerts, and comedy clubs where adults can smoke, drink, or eat cannabis products.

Fernando Alvarez, founder of VaporTent Lounges, said the city missed economic policies that he has helped other California cities. One that allows organizers to host special events where people can sell and consume weed. He claims it could be a boost to sales for San Jose, but so far he has had no takers.

Alvarez has successfully advocated cannabis policy in San Francisco and Oxnard, saying he’s in talks with other cities but he can’t buy himself from San Jose.


“Why do I have to keep leaving my hometown to carry out (this idea)?” Alvarez told the San Jose Spotlight.

Cannabis use in California has been legal since 2016. In September 2018, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the 2020 Assembly Bill, which made it legal for licensed cannabis event organizers to hold events in public or private locations.

Cities still have a great deal of discretion in regulating what types of cannabis activities are allowed. So Alvarez is working with local officials to develop guidelines that allow cannabis events. As an event organizer, Alvarez hopes to grow his own business by working with cities to approve these guidelines.

San Francisco was the first city to put in place such a policy, and Alvarez was a member of the task force that helped establish it. In 2019, cannabis delivery company Eaze sponsored an event at the Outside Lands music festival where attendees could buy and use cannabis.

Alvarez said event organizers will need to demonstrate in advance that they have security, on-site EMTs and age verification logs. You also need to make sure that the event is locked and not visible to the public. Alvarez said he had highlighted the regulated nature of these events in many conversations with San Jose officials over the years.

“We can carry out these small events fully regulated, state-licensed and insured. That would be this new tourism opportunity,” he said.

Cannabis events in the air

In January 2019, San Jose councilors Raul Peralez and Magdalena Carrasco wrote a memo of several cannabis-related initiatives for the city to consider, including events. But it didn’t make it onto the priority list for the 2019 calendar year.

A Peralez representative said he was unavailable for comment. Carrasco’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wendy Sollazzi, manager of the cannabis regulation department in San Jose, said the city needs to fully consider the types of events that are being considered, including public safety issues such as measures to prevent drinking and driving. There are also potential public health concerns, she added.

“The city of San Jose has been a public health leader for decades in preventing the passive use of tobacco and cannabis smoke,” Sollazzi said, noting that the city council had previously taken positions against smoking cannabis in city-owned venues have .

San Jose has spent years looking for ways to grow the city’s burgeoning cannabis industry, but it has seen setbacks. In 2019, the city set itself the task of allowing pharmacies to settle outside of industrial areas in order to make them more accessible. This proposal was made based on COVID-19 priorities.

Sean Kali-rai, a cannabis lobbyist and founder of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance, said cannabis events could help rejuvenate the city’s legal cannabis industry.

“I think we should get serious about consumer lounges and these types of licensed professional events in sanctioned areas,” Kali-rai told San Jose Spotlight. “Allow consenting adults to do what they voted for under Prop. 64.”

Kali-Rai said some of the sluggishness about cannabis stems from the fact that San Jose is a predominantly suburban community.

“We’re only an hour from San Francisco, but the mindset is completely different,” said Kali-rai. “It is this general, conservative nature in San Jose that has moved her a little more hesitantly and cautiously.”

Like Alvarez, Kali-rai suggests dollars from cannabis tourism and events could help revitalize the downtown area. Some local business leaders have already tried exploring this idea.

Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, said his organization was trying to host a cannabis event at the 2020 Music in the Park Festival. Airfield Supply & Co. wanted to sponsor the event, but the pandemic thwarted the plan. Knies told San Jose Spotlight that the city may take some time to develop a policy, but it’s worth working on.

“This is the right time to discuss with the police, with the city and find out how they can support this,” said Knies.

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Copyright © 2021 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse is prohibited without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc.


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