Organizers have canceled a cannabis-themed foodie fair in Gray because state inspectors concluded it would violate state marijuana laws.
The Cultivator Country Fair was to have begun Friday at 5 p.m. at Caswell Farm. It was to have included live music, circus performers and a cannabis-infused meal prepared by guest chefs Scott Nikol of Duckfat and Josh Potocki and Roux Sutherland of Bread + Butter Catering in Portland. Proceeds from the $100-per-person event would have gone to Maine Center for Grieving Children.
But a state medical marijuana inspector raised concerns about the event after talking to the event organizer, Cultivator Food Lab, and the landowner, said spokesman David Heidrich of the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which is now overseeing the state’s medical marijuana program.
“It would be a violation of state law for non-medical participants – including the chefs conducting food preparation – to possess and use medical marijuana,” Heidrich said. “In addition, there were concerns raised about the potential collective actions of any caregivers that may choose to participate in the event.”
Caregivers are prohibited by state law from working collectively to grow, market or distribute medical marijuana.
While voters approved the legalization of adult-use marijuana in 2016, the state has yet to roll out the licensing system needed to allow for commercial recreational sales. That means the only marijuana that can be legally sold in Maine now is medical marijuana, but state inspectors concluded the Cultivator Country Fair did not seem to be medically related.
Cultivator Food Lab bills itself as a collaboration of art, food and cannabis culture in Maine seeking to raise money for local charities to eliminate misconceptions about the cannabis community. It has held some private invitation-only events in the past, but Friday’s fair would have been its first public event open to anyone 21 years of age or older, even those without medical marijuana cards.
Cultivator Food Lab founder Dave Stephenson, who runs a caregiver business under the name of Hazy Hill Farm, said organizers decided to cancel the event as soon as the inspector told them what they planned to do was a violation of state law. He conceived of the event as a way to give the marijuana community a good name, not a bad one, he said.
“We want people to know we are taxpayers and parents, that we have families, that we are trying to run a legitimate business,” he said. “So of course we canceled. We’re not going to do anything illegal. But honestly, it feels like we keep fighting the same fight. The people voted for it, but we still face one obstacle after another, even for a charity event.”
Stephenson was spreading the word about the cancellation on social media and planned to offer a full refund to advance ticket holders. He said he will lose money because of the last-minute cancellation, but that many of the performers and contractors he’d hired to help him put on the event, as well as the venue, had agreed to cut him a break on price because of the state intervention.
Stephenson said he hopes to stage another farm-to-fork cannabis event once the state’s recreational laws go into full effect.
Medical marijuana has been legal for those with medical cards from their doctors since 1999 in Maine. Over time, the state tweaked its laws to allow dispensary and caregiver sales. In 2016, Maine voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana. It took lawmakers another two years to approve a system to regulate adult-use sales, most likely starting in 2019.