Legendary Calif. festival makes history with new addition

ice cube cali roots

California is known for many things—and cannabis is definitely one of them. Despite being fully legal for several years (and approved for medical use for decades), the plant only recently debuted at mainstream events. Fortunately for pot-consuming reggae fans, last weekend’s Cali Roots was the latest festival to see weed available right alongside alcohol, food, and band merch.

Held annually at the Monterey Fairgrounds, Cali Roots is a three-day extravaganza celebrating the music and culture of The Golden State. Acts like Rebelution, Ziggy Marley, and Ice Cube dazzled the crowd of 10,000 while a constant haze of weed smoke provided cloud cover from the ever-present sunshine. It was a familiar sight (and smell) for Cali Roots regulars, but 2024 marked the first time cannabis products could be purchased legally at the event.

RELATED: Weed in wine country – a weekend at BottleRock

Attendees traveled behind a faux grass wall for the Smoke Show marketplace presented by dispensary chain Embarc. Co-founder Dustin Moore was elated at the opportunity to facilitate the first of many cannabis sales at Cali Roots—and share in part of the modern history being made.

“This festival has always had a huge cannabis presence; it’s been part of the culture – but the amount of folks that came in and purchased cannabis that were first-time consumers stunned me,” Moore told GreenState

“We’re standing about 300 yards away from where Jimi Hendrix famously closed down the Monterey Pop Festival by burning his guitar—I know cannabis was being consumed then, and I bet you those festival goers couldn’t believe there would ever be a day when we could do this.”

glass blower cali roots
A glass blower creates a pipe in the Smoke Show area of Cali Roots. Photo: Mike Tebb

Several well-known cannabis brands were present in the marketplace, including Humboldt Family Farms, American Weed Co., and Halara. The Equity Trade Network booth featured more than a half dozen legacy and social equity brands such as Prophet, Queen Mary, Cali Love, and Midzotics

“It’s been wonderful; we’ve been able to educate a lot of new canna-curious folks,” said Nina Parks of Equity Trade Network. “(People) feel safer, are able to ask questions, and have (cannabis) accessible in a way that feels familiar.”

A steady stream of festival goers passed through the 21+ weed section, perusing joints, edibles, and freshly rolled hash holes. Rolling competitions, stretch n’ smoke, and brand talks anchored the Smoke Show programming, where cannabis enthusiasts steady blazed between their favorite bands.

RELATED: This was the best new pot at SF Weed Week

The Smoke Show highlight was easily the build-a-bong contest. Participants were given baskets with common household items such as fruit, potato chip tubes, and PVC plumbing pipes, creatively constructing a pipe or bong within ten minutes. Entries were judged on creativity and functionality, with the winner taking home an epic prize pack of Smoke Show swag. All three MacGuyver pipes were functional, but a contraption made from nearly every component in the basket took home the top honor.

Prophet co-founder Luke Scarmazzo helped judge the bong contest. Scarmazzo joked he was the ultimate authority on DIY pipes due to his 15-year incarceration for cannabis charges. 

“After spending so many years in the federal pen, I know a few things about homemade bongs,” Scarmazzo laughed, adding the go-to method in prison involved the metal eraser holder on a pencil. 

cali roots build a bong
Contestants craft homemade bongs as judges Matt Shotwell and Luke Scarmazzo observe. Photo: GreenState Team / Mike Tebb

Outside the Smoke Show section, Cali Roots devotees swayed under a gentle sea breeze as heavy bass and horn sections rang out overhead. Live art, festival gear, and tasty snacks dotted the grounds between the two main stages. A sesh garden next to the Smoke Show featured two bong-shaped columns perfect for a pot-themed social media moment, and many oversized, inflatable RAW cones could be seen in the crowd.

Cali Roots festival is devoted to West Coast culture, and weed is definitely part of that legacy. While the plant was surely present at previous event iterations, 2024 marked a momentous first as attendees could finally get the goods on-site (legally, that is). As more mainstream music festivals get hip to the fact that many folks in the crowd are partaking, it’s only a matter of time before on-site cannabis sales become the norm rather than the exception.

rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of GreenState.com. She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter