Attendees stand along the barricade Sept. 24, 2021, at the Roots N Blues music festival in Columbia. now known as Treeline Music Fest. With the state recreational marijuana law being so new, there’s still confusion among residents and officials about what’s allowed at festivals. (File photo by Cleo Norman / Columbia Missourian)
So you’re heading to the Evolution Festival this weekend in St. Louis, and you picked up a “music festival fanny pack” stuffed with pre-rolled joints, vapes, THC-infused mints, and the works at Hippos dispensary in Chesterfield.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal, you’re thinking you can roll right through the gate with your Barbie-pink fanny pack of goodies.
Well maybe, but maybe not.
With the state law being so new, these kinds of questions are still getting worked out at the local level, and there’s still quite a bit of confusion among residents and officials about what’s allowed. Let’s dive in.
Evolution — along with others like the Treeline Music Fest coming up in Columbia — is being held in a public park. By state law, consumption of marijuana in public places is illegal, unless the local government has passed an ordinance giving them the authority to permit such activity.
“Events must follow local laws regarding public consumption of marijuana,” said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services which regulates the state’s cannabis program. “If there are no local laws allowing for public consumption, the constitutional prohibition against public consumption would apply.”
St. Louis has not passed such a law, city officials said, and neither has Columbia.
On July 17, Columbia City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits marijuana use in any public or private property that is open to the general public, including “sidewalks, streets, parking facilities, bridges, parks, schools, and businesses….” But it doesn’t include a process for special event permits.
According to St. Louis’ parks department, Evolution does not have permission to allow the selling or public consumption of marijuana.
But back to the fanny pack.
By state law you can possess up to three ounces of marijuana in public — you just can’t smoke it.
“Possession and use are different concepts,” said attorney Dan Viets, who was one of the authors of the constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana and is associated with Missouri NORML. “It’s not a law violation to possess cannabis almost anywhere.”
However, it would be up to the festival gatekeepers on whether you can bring it in.
Evolution’s website says you can’t bring in any outside food or drink, or “illegal drugs or illegal drug paraphernalia.”
You can bring in e-cigarettes and vape pens, but it doesn’t specify joints or marijuana. The event organizers wouldn’t comment on whether or not marijuana products would be confiscated or turned away at the door.
When Hippos advertised its music festival pack, the group mentioned Evolution and Treeline as some of the next big festivals to gear up for. Beth Adan, a spokesperson for the company, said Hippos employees will be at Evolution to “meet and greet,” but she didn’t know about the event’s specific consumption rules.
“While Hippos can’t comment on other entities’ on-site rules and restrictions, they did create the festival pack that was designed in the spirit of 21 and older consumers in the state celebrating festival season,” Adan said, “whether that be at the festival or in other locations, pre-party events, etc.”
The bag is a discounted value pack with 10 pre-rolls plus flower, so people probably wouldn’t bring in the entire stash to one concert. But say you decide to brave security with your stuffed fanny pack in full sight, and they let you in. Or say you go the old-fashioned route and hide the joints in your cigarette packs, pockets or bras to get it in the door. Can you get in trouble if you light them up?
“The police can issue a summons, and one who violates the law could be fined up to $100,” Viets said regarding smoking marijuana in a public place. “Nobody’s going to jail. Nobody’s going to get a criminal record.”
Will St. Louis police be enforcing the state law at the festival?
In response to that question, the city parks department said, “There will be private event security, [St. Louis Metropolitan Police] and park rangers on site in the park during the festival.”
However, Megan Green, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, said that it won’t likely be an issue for festival go-ers.
“I doubt that there would be much enforcement given that the city is fully decriminalized,” Green said. “Police focus their time on greater threats to public safety.”
This fall, she said aldermen will be working on a bill to establish clear guidelines for events like this in the future, outlining rules for public consumption. But they’re not there yet.
So for the fall, state law likely applies at all music festivals in public places.
Correction: This story was updated since publication to clarify Missouri law allows individuals to possess three ounces of marijuana.
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