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San Diego EarthFair returns with cannabis-friendly events

Annual fest will include a Cannabis Row. Plus, some picks for more 4/20 events throughout the city
Courtesy of the Nugget Nerds
San Diego Earthfair

San Diego Earthfair

Courtesy of the Nugget Nerds

For the first time in three years, the San Diego EarthFair will finally return to Balboa Park on Sunday, April 24

Now in its 31st iteration (it would have been 33 if not for COVID), the behemoth of a family-friendly Earth Day festival relies on the help of 300 volunteers to host 200 exhibitors in 11 exhibit areas. There are three food courts, two beer gardens, a children’s activity area and four entertainment stages. There’s also the Earth Day Parade, the “eARTh Gallery” arts and crafts show and a “Cleaner Car Concourse.

One of the cornerstones of this year’s festivities is CannabisRow, a weed-tinged section of EarthFair hosted by San Diego Cannabis Farmers Market, a local company best known for its underground farmer-to-consumer cannabis markets before Prop 64 legalized adult-use dispensary sales in 2018. Today, SDCFM hosts weed events and periodic cannabis competitions under its Farmers Cup banner. This year will include the 420 cup’s award ceremony which will be hosted by local radio personality Chris Cantore. (Full disclosure: yours truly will also serve as a judge in this year’s cup).

Ahead of EarthFair, which conveniently hits at the same time of year as 4/20 (the informal international stoner holiday), I caught up with CannabisRow’s organizer Joshua Caruso of San Diego Cannabis Farmers Market. We talked about what else besides the Farmers Cup awards happens at CannabisRow, the significance of the return of cannabis events to San Diego, and whether or not there will be a place to toke up at the festivities

Jackie Bryant: What’s CannabisRow’s relationship with EarthFair? It seems pretty cool that we have an open-to-the-public weed-themed festival in San Diego.

Joshua Caruso: Next weekend on Sunday at 10 a.m., we are back!. We had to cancel EarthFair for two years because of COVID but this year everything is back.

It’s very significant for San Diego because CannabisRow takes place at EarthFair, which is one of the world’s largest public family-friendly Earth Day celebrations—this is the 31st edition. And for the past four or five years we’ve been blessed enough to have an area dedicated to the beautiful cannabis plant, which we all know has a lot of ecologically positive effects, it’s part of our Earth!

CannabisRow, in particular, is one of the areas where we’re really pushing education, which is why we’ll have live hemp plants and different exhibitors, as well as music acts. In the past few years, especially after COVID, the cannabis industry has gone through rocky times. But, despite the industry’s challenges, we also have had an influx of a lot of new businesses as well that weren’t around in 2019 when we had our last cannabis event. So we’re really excited this year to put on a public cannabis event on for San Diego, which hasn’t happened for years.

But we’re even more excited just to focus on showcasing the cannabis plant and our local cannabis culture. We really feel like cannabis here in San Diego has a deep culture, but it’s not really profound — it’s more hidden. It’s just not in the public’s eye. We’re trying to change that by, you know, breaking the stigma and showing cannabis culture as we know it, which is friendly, communal and positive for people and the earth.

JB: For those who don’t know, what is San Diego Cannabis Farmers Market?

JC: Our group has been doing a lot in the cannabis local scene for a long time before Prop 64 legalized recreational cannabis. Prior to that, we ran an event called the San Diego Cannabis Farmers Market.

It was literally a farmers market for cannabis and for all things related to cannabis, like paraphernalia, music and clothing. But, as the laws eventually changed [editor’s note: Prop 64 outlaws direct sales from farmer-to-consumer], we had to change our business model.

So, now we mainly focus on events, education and bringing together the industry and the community. We run job fairs for those looking to work in the legal cannabis industry, we run meet-and-greets and other networking events, too. Of course, we also run the Farmers Cup. Over the years we’ve basically turned into a community hub for local cannabis culture, in general.

JB: Why is it so important for San Diego to have a focal point for its cannabis culture?

JC: Just because people tend to gravitate toward something they know, but here in San Diego what they’re looking for generally isn’t there, which is a cohesive cannabis culture like it exists in L.A. or the Bay Area. In San Diego, we’ve generally been a little bit slower to move on educational efforts and public events and things like that; the type that brings growth to our industry and our culture, and so the community here can be hard to find sometimes.

So, we really saw a match there. There’s a need for events in the culture and that’s what we can provide. This year really shows the progress that San Diego has made with cannabis and we plan on bringing a lot of new aspects together that haven’t been together in the past, like the Farmers Cup awards ceremony. For the first time, it’s on a public stage. In the past, it had to be all underground.

The competition itself features licensed cannabis products, home growers, hemp products, and so on. But we’re very proud to have that on a public stage in our home city, which has never been able to happen before. It’s just really nice for us to get together with the people of San Diego and to show them what the cannabis industry and community and culture have been up to and what we’re capable of.

JB: Can people smoke weed at CannabisRow?

JC: The general rule of thumb is there is no smoking at Balboa Park because it is a public city park. So that means that kids and families are going to be around, plus it’s against park rules. The general rule of thumb is ‘no,’ but those who are over 21-and-up, you know, if they’re off the property, they can do what 21-year-olds are allowed to do in California, which is use cannabis in a private area designated for the purpose. Now, we will have a few buses available that will be taking people to and from their cars and cannabis consumption is allowed on those buses.

JB: What are some other highlights people can expect at CannabisRow?

JC: We’re sponsored by Liquid Death, so we’re going to have a whole bunch of water filling stations throughout the event.

There are also going to be individual “villages;” areas where we’re really proud to represent up to six local dispensaries. One of them is our main sponsor, Jack’s Cannabis, along with Weed for the People. March and Ash, a local dispensary chain, also has its own “village” with different booths and activations, as does Hikei, Exotix and Originals San Diego. All of these companies are either from San Diego or have deep roots here. Each village has its own theme.

We are also going to be displaying 50-100 live hemp plants for public display, along with art installations, including one making two archways that are going to be made out of 17-foot-tall hemp plants.

CannabisRow also has two full stages all day long, and we are really, really hyped on this one! We have our own stage, which is the main stage, and we’re going to have LED walls and performances all day long. We’re going to have our Farmers Cup award ceremony at 4:20 p.m. And, before that, basically all day long, it’s going to be live performances from local hula dance groups, African dance groups, reggae groups and other local artists.

The second stage is basically the same thing but with different kinds of music, different kinds of live acts. We’re also happy to feature a 21-and-up area right next to the beer garden.

More 4/20 events in San Diego

Local burlesque personality Miss Hell Fires is hosting a “420 Burlesque and Variety Show Extravaganza” at The Social in the Convoy District. The event will feature “burlesque, belly dancing, comedy, vendors, raffles, games and more. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8. Tickets are $7 at the door and there’s also a $10 ticket option that includes two raffle tickets.

 4411 Mercury St. San Diego, CA 92111

Hikei dispensary is hosting an all-day party with a 25% discount off the entire store. The party will also feature games, music and other events, as well as 500 goodie bags and a T-shirt with every purchase.

3940 Home Ave, San Diego, CA 92105

RSVPs are required for Blaze Under the Stars, which is screening Pineapple Express and Friday in an undisclosed private space that will be revealed once people buy tickets. The cash-only, 21-and-up event costs $4.20 to register and will feature live music by The Humble Chicanos and Winyl Club. Other activities include flash tattoos by The GoodLife tattoo shop, cocktails, a food bar, tarot readings, a night market, a special display by SunnySide Lifestyle and more. The event’s organizers are encouraging participants to bring chairs and blankets as everything is picnic style.

Chula Vista’s Grasshopper dispensary is hosting an all-day one-year anniversary and 4/20 party. The event will include giveaways, games, prizes, guest DJs, a face painting station, a photo booth and more. Carnival-style food and drink stands will be on-site selling Tostilocos, Hawaiian shave ice, Dole Whip soft serve and something called a “dank candy bar.”

376 Trousdale Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910

Ocean Beach band Half Hour Late will be playing their self-titled album release party, which they are also billing as a 4/20 party, at The Holding Company, which is affectionately known to locals as THC. Opening for them is the also appropriately named local band The Resinators. Doors open at 7, tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day-of, including at the door.

5046 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

B-Real from Cypress Hill’s dispensary chain, Dr. Greenthumbs, is hosting a 4/20 carnival at its La Mesa storefront. The entire store is priced at a 40-60% discount with raffles to win prizes like an XBox Series X. Pro-tip: their house brand’s weed is incredibly good and is a celebrity-backed brand worth trying.

8760 Campo Rd, La Mesa, CA 91941

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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