Special to the Sun/Wade Vandervort
Sunday, April 2, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Mike ‘Chili’ Houlihan knows why many attend the Las Vegas Hemp Festival he organizes. Saturday at the Craig Ranch Regional Park was no different.
”Everybody smokes at our event,” Houlihan said. “Anybody who wants to use cannabis here does so, and we’re happy to make that happen.”
The three-acre festival grounds welcomed about 15,000 participants and nearly 100 vendors from more than 10 countries for the day-long event, which also featured live performances from Insane Clown Posse and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
But unlike the festival’s previous three years at the venue, marijuana use Saturday was prevalent and unhinged as attendees celebrated the “newfound freedom” of legalized pot in Nevada.
Nevadans voted last November to legalize possession and use of up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana or one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana concentrates, such as shatter, oil and wax. Ballot Question 2 became law on Jan. 1.
At the festival, vendors offered free dabs of marijuana concentrate products, serving thousands of gratuitous sample-seeking attendees, while others handed out small flower-packed joints and THC-laced edible spin-offs of popular candies.
Sean Moss, 32, and Sarah Beeny, 25, travelled more than 400 miles from Salt Lake City to participate in the weed festival. A frequent attendee of similar events in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, Moss coughed and smiled just seconds after breathing in a dab of heated tangerine kush-flavored wax from a small glass bong.
The wax’s vendor, Los Angeles-based Calicure Concentrates, was available only to VIP ticket buyers. Moss said he paid $200 each for his and Beeny’s hemp festival tickets.
”This is a bigger, more involved festival,” he said. “You have a little bit of everything.”
Managing her exhibit next to the amphitheater, marijuana merchandise and paraphernalia vendor Reiko Inano, said she waved at two uniformed North Las Vegas police officers earlier in the afternoon while they watched her from about 30 feet away taking a dab of marijuana concentrates.
”At first I wasn’t sure if it was allowed, but they seemed more bothered with a couple vehicles driving up on the rocks here than us smoking,” Inano said. “This is the first year people have really felt confident enough to medicate openly.”
Standing backstage with the festival’s master of ceremonies and two body guards, Houlihan said he wouldn’t have it any other way. A proud advocate of the plant, he has hosted marijuana festivals since the mid 2000s in major American cities such as Seattle, Denver and Portland, Ore..
”It’s something we’re very happy about,” he said of marijuana use at Saturday’s festival.
Asked about the department’s take on marijuana consumption at the festival, on-duty North Las Vegas police officer Boris Santana said no citations had been issued through 6 p.m.. Santana, one of two uniformed officers patrolling the venue during the day, said attendees had the right to possess and use marijuana at the festival. That’s different than previous years, when the force issued misdemeanor citations to users there.
”Right now it’s legal and they’re not breaking any laws,” he said. “As long as they’re over 21.”