TOWNSEND — It’s BYOW this weekend at the annual Weedstock festival.
Previously hosted by Delaware NORML, a cannabis advocacy group, Weedstock has become its own organization with sponsorship partners.
And organizers are expecting their biggest crowd yet at this year’s cannabis/music festival at Firebase Lloyd, home to the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club, in Townsend.
“If you’ve ever been to a party where it’s just cannabis consumers, we never do cause anybody problems,” said Cynthia Ferguson, Weedstock’s director. “People are just friendly and hungry.”
Ms. Ferguson, a cannabis consumer herself, said she and other partners want to create a festival environment where people don’t have to look over their shoulders while smoking marijuana.
“It should just be normal,” she said. “I don’t even drink alcohol, (so) why can’t I smoke a little pot?”
The first festival, in 2017, drew a crowd of a couple hundred. The following year around 700 visitors gathered, which jumped to around 1,700 in 2019.
Ms. Ferguson said they are expecting an even bigger crowd this year, especially after missing a year due to the pandemic.
The fest sets up shop on 40 acres of private property. In 2015, possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana on private property was decriminalized in Delaware.
Laura Sharer is the executive director of Delaware NORML and the advocacy coordinator for Weedstock. She said several groups from Delaware and surrounding states — plus the NORML branches of Delaware, Maryland, Empire State and Montco — will be in attendance to talk to attendees about their respective state’s cannabis regulations.
“The goal is to help our Delaware attendees be aware of the pending legislation that we have here in Delaware, in terms of our cannabis reform bill,” Ms. Sharer said. “We want to grow that advocacy area to include our friends and colleagues from the surrounding area.”
Delaware NORML is working closely with Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, the primary sponsor of House Bill 150, which would regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. New York, Virginia, New Mexico and Connecticut all approved measures to legalize marijuana in 2021, but HB 150 was held up in the Delaware General Assembly this summer.
Ms. Sharer said advocates are confident it will pass in 2022.
“Delaware lawmakers are behind the game,” she said. “I wish they would just read the actual data, the clear literature and research that we have from the states that have done this. We’re not reinventing the wheel. We know what’s going to happen. You have national studies that tell us this is a good idea.”
Representatives from groups in states where recreational use has been legalized, like Arizona and California, will highlight how the end of prohibition there has improved the economy and crime rates. Ms. Sharer said that statistics show enormous benefits resulting from ending cannabis prohibition.
The CATO Institute’s most recent analysis of the effects of marijuana legalization says that states with legal marijuana markets have collected millions of dollars in tax revenues. Additionally, violent crime has neither soared nor plummeted in the wake of cannabis legalization.
Vendors at Weedstock will be selling cannabis merchandise, but festival organizers have told sellers to follow state laws regarding the sale of any marijuana products.
Weekend camping is widely popular at Weedstock, in an effort to discourage driving under the influence. Ms. Ferguson noted that the event will have an EMT and ambulance on-site all weekend, plus security, just like any other music festival.
“We haven’t had anybody have any altercations or be stopped by the police or anything like that,” she said. “This is just a bunch of people who can smoke pot. We tell them to bring your own and do what you want.”
Ms. Sharer said that the festival normally brings a small boom to businesses nearby, but that it never has any negative effects on the community. She said the event’s crew alone usually sells out Helen’s Sausage House in Smyrna for Friday and Saturday breakfasts.
“We are trying to be clear to our vendors and to our attendees that everything is kind of like ‘attend at your own risk,’” Ms. Sharer said. “Although there are a lot of attendees, and the festival itself is a great, loud, boisterous time, we’re a pretty quiet crew in terms of exiting (the grounds) and how it impacts the surrounding area.”
Over the course of the weekend, 17 bands are lined up to play, including Kitty Rotten, Rich Raw & The World Warrior Band and the Low Sundays. Food trucks like Crazy Rick’s, Dixie’s Down Home Cooking, Happy Panda and several others will set up shop to soothe the munchies.
“It is a celebration of all things cannabis, of course, but we are the Delaware community,” Ms. Sharer said. “We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, construction workers, and this is just how we like to spend our Friday and Saturday nights. We’re all going to go back to our day jobs on Monday and continue to pay our taxes and be law-abiding citizens.”
Gates open at 3 p.m. Friday and at 10 a.m. Saturday. The festival runs until midnight both days. Tickets and camping passes can be bought here.