Let’s get the obvious out of the way: No, you cannot legally consume marijuana at the second annual National Cannabis Festival. While Initiative 71 did legalize marijuana for adult use in D.C. starting in 2015, the law bars anyone from using cannabis in public — and the festival doesn’t change that. You won’t be able to buy or sell marijuana at the event, either — both D.C. law and the festival strictly prohibit that. So what’s the point of the National Cannabis Festival?
“I think the goal of the festival is to start drawing in the folks that may not consider themselves part of the immediate cannabis community but are interested in learning more,” says Caroline Phillips, the event’s founder. It’s also a chance to show that not all users are the hippie, stoner stereotypes often seen in movies and TV. “The reason why we go to the trouble of building an event like this one mile from Congress and the Capitol is that we really do want to show them another side of this community,” Phillips says.
While you can’t light up, here are five things you can do at Saturday’s event, which is open to adults 21 and up.
Become an advocate
Hemp soap company Dr. Bronner’s, which has poured money into marijuana legalization efforts across the country, is sponsoring an advocacy village in the middle of the festival grounds with giveaways throughout the day. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, various chapters of NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project and voter-registration group HeadCount will be on hand to talk to attendees who are interested in getting involved — and also those who are just excited to be at a weed festival. “For the folks who come in thinking that they’re not really interested in policy or advocacy, it will be hard for them to leave without learning something,” Phillips says.
The education pavilion includes a robust lineup of events and panels, beginning at noon with a yoga class. At 1 p.m., there will be a discussion on whether or not there’s a new war on cannabis under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Another panel at 2:45 p.m. focuses on weed technology (for apps, home growing and more). The education pavilion wraps up in the evening with an expo highlighting many of Maryland’s soon-to-open medical marijuana dispensaries. “We wanted to make sure we provided a platform for people to really learn about a broad swath of the industry,” Phillips says.
The festival’s vendor fair will include dozens of marijuana companies — head shops, hydroponic stores, D.C. medical marijuana dispensaries, vaporizer companies, yes — but there’s also a push to showcase companies that might complement cannabis culture, such as D.C. vintage clothing store Meeps and the record shop/music venue Songbyrd, which is setting up a record lounge at the festival and is hosting a pre-festival concert with the band Names (2477 18th St. NW; Thu., 8 p.m., $5, ages 21+.). “One of things we’re trying to accomplish with the vendor village is to try to show a little more about cannabis culture — and that goes beyond the immediate ancillary businesses,” Phillips says.
Get your munch on
The festival is embracing at least one stereotype with the munchies zone, which Phillips says will include twice as many food trucks as last year. Food options include pizza from DC Slices, sushi from Maki Shop, ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s and sandwiches from Peruvian Brothers. So come hungry.
Chill out to the music
The main event of the festival is the music stage, which will feature sets from D.C.’s Empresarios, go-go group Backyard Band, hip-hop act The Pharcyde and headliner Talib Kweli. Sprinkled throughout the musical events will be speeches from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Council member David Grosso and former presidential candidate Jill Stein. There are also several so-called chill zones throughout the RFK grounds, which will include games like giant Jenga, a photo booth and a spa.
RFK Stadium Lot 6/7, 2400 E. Capitol St. SE; Sat., noon-8 p.m., $35.