Snoop, Chong Planning NorCal 'Gatherings' 

NorCal and SoCal's sometimes disparate weed cultures are scheduled for a crossover event.

Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong & Cheech Marin are planning to host two "music and medicine"-themed Northern California concerts this fall and next spring. Producing the events is Southern California company Guerilla Union — who produce Rock the Bells, the Cypress Hill Smokeout, and this weekend's second annual Spring Gathering in the medical marijuana battleground county of San Bernardino.

Guerilla Union head Chang Weisberg told Legalization Nation that Spring Gathering and the Smokeout have done so well, they're heading north. The two major events are "in development" with Snoop and Chong taking lead roles, Weisberg said. "Tommy has some concepts," Weisberg continued. "Snoop has his own ideas on how to make an impact. These four events will become the significant events of our music and medicine platform in California in perpetuity."

The Spring Gathering on Saturday, June 11, should draw about 6,000 heads to sets by the likes of Snoop, Cypress, Travis Barker & Mix Master Mike, Stephen Marley, and Dilated Peoples. That's double the first year's attendance, Weisberg noted. And Spring Gathering also celebrates another milestone — the availability of so-called "on-site consumption" areas for qualified medical marijuana patients to light up.

Producing such an event has been no small feat in conservative San Bernardino, where local leaders are still seeking a ban on all cannabis clubs. "I've been called 'The Devil,'" Weisberg said. "Southern California is a whole different country than Northern California."

Spring Gathering's tolerant rules stem from the fact that it's on state-owned land, not county property. Weisberg said the company has a good record with the nonprofit that runs the National Orange Show Events Center. "All of the people who are responsible for allowing us to have an on-site consumption area at the show felt like, 'The first Spring Gathering went so well, we will allow there to be consumption at [fall 2010] Smokeout for qualified California patients,'" Weisberg added. "Smokeout was the first event of its magnitude to have recognized consumption on-site for patients. It went so well, we're allowed to do it now."

Of course, many fans of Cypress Hill have been defying the law and smoking weed at shows since the Nineties, when the band started. A large chunk of Californians treats recreational weed use like it's legal, Weisberg noted. With marijuana possession at just $100 ticket, it's easy to see why. Growing pot is still a felony, however, with up to a three-year sentence in state prison. "There is a dichotomy there," Weisberg noted. Spring Gathering's panels, however, hope to bridge that gap.

Stephen Gutwillig of the Drug Policy Alliance will moderate "The Modern Cannabis Movement," a panel featuring Oakland's Jeff Jones; Chris Conrad from West Coast Leaf; Don Duncan from Americans for Safe Access; Lanny Swerdlow with the THCF Medical Clinic; Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML; and Sarah Lovering with the Marijuana Policy Project.

The Gathering also features a special women's panel with leading lights: Valerie Corral of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana; Debby Goldsberry, from the Cannabis Action Network; Dale Sky Jones, with Oaksterdam University; Allison Margolin, a prominent Los Angeles attorney; and Mikki Norris head of West Coast Leaf.

Yet even with the growth in popularity of events such as Spring Gathering, the medical marijuana movement as a whole is taking one step backward for every two steps forward, said Doug Francis, president of WeedMaps.com — which powers Spring Gathering. The governor of Arizona has just blocked dispensaries. American Express just canceled service to clubs. "When we started signing up Spring Gathering, we were thinking Arizona would already be online right now," Francis said. "It was a thank you to the community for supporting us. We just wanted to throw a big old celebration. But in the last thirty days — it's been manic depressive. That's why we're hoping we can take a break from the stress that exists in this world and just go celebrate."

Seeds and Stems

Grungy, druggy garage rockers Black Lips released Arabia Mountain on Vice Records Tuesday June 7, and play the Great American Music Hall June 11 and June 12. Fresh off a now-legendary hipster Caribbean cruise with San Francisco's Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips' sixth studio album took a year instead of a week to record, tapping Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson. Check out "Modern Art," about a high visit to the Dali Museum.

San Jose Hemp Con returns to the San Jose Convention Center June 1 through June 12. Produced by tattoo expo dudes Mega Productions of Hacienda Heights, expect the usual mix of paraphernalia booths, growing classes, and a 215 tent. $20, adults only. ... Dispensaries in California are under attack again, in the form of Assembly Bill 1300, which gives new legal ammo to towns that want to ban safe access. Los Angeles Democrat Bob Blumenfield's bill would have the effect of forcing little old ladies to leave their neighborhoods and visit the ghetto to get their arthritis medication, activists say.

That's because places like Anaheim are trying to ban medical cannabis dispensaries, while clubs flourish elsewhere. The bill would provide towns the explicit power to ban clubs. Kris Hermes with Americans for Safe Access stated: "ASA strongly opposes AB 1300" and "it will do more harm than good." While more than fifty California cities and counties have regulated clubs, a hundred have banned them, ASA noted. "ASA considers such prohibitions unfair, shameful, and illegal under state law." 

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