PORTLAND, Ore. -- On its surface, Sunday’s Summer Fair in North Portland was a celebration of the small businesses within Oregon's cannabis community.
Upon digging deeper, though, patrons found it to be an education on the evolving state regulations attached to the budding industry.
“We were working with ‘How do we bring small farmers, craft producers in a place where they can meet the public?’ and at the same time, grapple with and figure out a way to exist among a really challenging regulatory structure,” said Amy Margolis, a Portland attorney and executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association.
Still, it was juxtaposition that didn’t seem to bother many.
Before Summer Fair even opened late Sunday morning, a line to get in wrapped around the block at the intersection of North Interstate Avenue and Tillamook Street.
Jason Wilcox compared the excitement to that of a beer fest but better.
“I'm not a drinker, so I don't know,” he said. “I think it's a little safer.”
Adding to that assumption, he said, was the price of admission.
It was free, as were the countless free samples of cannabis and cannabis-infused products being handed out by excited local vendors.
Make no mistake, said Margolis. There’s a reason for the low price tag.
“State law and ballot measure 91, when it was drafted, said you cannot charge tickets for an event and then have cannabis given out because that would be considered a sale,” she said.
And that was far from the only restriction.
The event was also alcohol-free, and vendors can only have so much cannabis or cannabis-infused product, on display at once, a requirement centered around the weight of your product.
That proved to be a problem for Bill Stewart, who was passing out caramel.
“While that's kind of limiting on people who have flower, one bud is pretty light. My sample is really heavy,” he said.
So to make life easier, Stewart left the pot out completely and asked people to use their imaginations.
“Really my selling point is the flavor,” he said.
Margolis said he was far from the only one who went THC-free Sunday.
Still, fair-goers, excited by the mere concept of a cannabis festival, didn’t seem too phased.
While admission was free, space was limited, and tickets sold out days in advance.
By Sunday afternoon, there was a 600-person waiting list to get in.