Oakland hosting nation's first marijuana street fair

September 2, 2011 7:57:23 PM PDT
An unusual event will happen in Oakland this holiday weekend -- the city will host the nation's first marijuana street fair. Some like the idea, some don't.

It wasn't long ago you couldn't smoke pot anywhere legally, but this weekend, thousands will smoke it right in front of Oakland City Hall. And the city is just fine with it.

Stages and tents are rising up in the streets around Oakland City Hall in preparation for the smell of marijuana rising from the streets Saturday and Sunday.

"Oakland's the birthplace of the medical cannabis industry," Cannabis and Hemp Expo CEO Kimberly Cue said. "We're proud to be here."

Parts of two downtown streets are being blocked off for the three-day International Hemp and Cannabis Expo, where those with the proper ID can go to learn about, and smoke medical marijuana.

"[It's] really marks the first time that we've had cannabis activists and city officials working hand in hand to create an amazing event, so I think it's a great step forward," Harborside Health Center Director Steve DeAngelo said.

DeAngelo, who likes to brag that his Harborside Health Center creates jobs and pays millions in taxes, says it's high time there was a street fair about marijuana.

"In fact, I think it's about 20-30 years overdue," DeAngelo said.

So what does the city think about it?

"It's a state constitutional right to medicate, so we're not going to prevent them from their state constitutional right, but we will make sure that medication happens in a safe, lawful and sane manner in the city," Oakland city administrator's assistant Arturo Sanchez said.

But not everyone's looking forward to a city sanctioned pot party.

"That's just like saying, 'Come on, let's do it everybody, let's get high,' and forget about the ramifications, forget about the devastating effects," African American Youth Council spokesperson Charles O'Neil said.

O'Neil worries the expo is just one more way for kids to get their hands on medical pot.

"Kids are walking around, I mean, middle school kids, even, with cards that permit them to purchase marijuana themselves," O'Neil said.

Organizers point out fairgoers can only smoke pot in one restricted area. Most of the expo is smoke-free. And there will be plenty of other attractions.

"We're really lucky to have a surge of new gourmet food trucks that we're going to be having park at our event," Cannabis and Hemp Expo organizer Salwa Ibrahim said.

The expo from 12-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You have to be 18 to attend and no marijuana will be sold inside the street fair.

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