It comes as little surprise that California’s cannabis culture is so far ahead of other adult-use states, and now that includes events with public consumption, also known as social use. 

Into the Woods

This summer, Northern Lights Music Festival welcomed guests to Cook’s Valley Campground, north of San Francisco on the border of Humboldt and Mendocino counties. The dreamy event was filled with music, camping, floating on the Eel River and … northern lights. 

Also aglow was cannabis–available for purchase and for use. 

There is a shift happening in the event space where individuals not only have the option to consume cannabis at one site but also cannabis as an alternative option to spirits. Northern Lights set the tone as the first music festival in the country to allow for on-site cannabis consumption. 

The festival created a consumption area, much like a beer garden, for festival attendees to purchase cannabis. 

Brands such as Humboldt Farms, Emerald Exchange, Cookies, Caliva and more set up shop in the vicinity of the Tree Lounge (the consumption area) that looked like an artisanal farmer’s market. 

Humboldt Farms used the consumption opportunity to go beyond just music. The brand created a health and wellness experience for festival-goers to relax and find a calming space while consuming cannabis. Intermingling cannabis into health and wellness while at a music festival proved to be valued by attendees. 

Soon thereafter, Outside Lands, a San Francisco-based music festival, created a similar experience called Grass Lands where festival-goers could purchase and consume cannabis for their enjoyment. 

In making a case for de-stigmatization, events like Northern Lights ad Outside Lands are illustrating that an alternative option to alcohol allows guests who prefer cannabis, to safely imbibe. When wellness is also attached to option, it’s a win for guests, events and the cannabis industry. 

Meanwhile on the Front Range

In May Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis, signed a new law allowing for safe, public consumption in designated areas. As a result, Colorado’s cannabis dispensaries can now apply for licenses that create tasting room experiences. Auxiliary businesses such as restaurants, galleries, entertainment venues or fitness studios also can apply for private consumption licensing and limited sales of cannabis products. Many of these are forthcoming. 

The state has attempted such an amendment to its cannabis laws since 2013, and the rise of tourism has aided in the change of thinking. This will allow Colorado to catch up with California’s innovation, and possibly more adult-use states in the future. 

Everywhere Else 

Of the current adult-use states, laws are as follows:

Alaska – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.

Illinois – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.

Massachusetts – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.

Michigan – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.

Nevada – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.

Oregon – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.

Washington – Currently no laws allowing for public consumption.


Coverage and photography by cannabis journalist, Lisa Curiel Parker. Parker wrote her USC master’s thesis titled “Emerald Skies Ahead: Ethics and Marketing Implications of the Cannabis Industry.” Follow her on Instagram @lisacurparker.