WATSONVILLE — Colin Disheroon would like to “change the story around cannabis” in any way he can.
As the CEO and founder of Santa Cruz Naturals, a dispensary with locations in Aptos and Pajaro, he’s tried to push away the thick, cloudy stigma that comes with using cannabis — for medicinal purposes or recreational.
“I want people to feel like they don’t have to hide it,” Disheroon said. “I don’t want people to feel like they’re doing something wrong when they’re enjoying the product.”
That journey to change the perception of cannabis pushed Disheroon and Co. into one of their most ambitious projects.
The Power of Flower festival will unite music and cannabis for one night at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds on Aug. 10.
Organizers say the event will support small, local and legal craft cannabis brands, as well as allow cannabis to have a legal, fun and safe presence in a music festival setting.
Ozomatli, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, George Porter & Runnin’ Pardners, Space Heater and Diego’s Umbrella will all rock the stage, while cannabis companies such as Santa Cruz Roots, Skunk Feather, Santa Cruz Mountain Tops and Legion of Bloom will hold exhibitions throughout the night.
Mattia Pizza, Santa Cruz Poke, Saucey’z, Rouge Pye and Tacos El Chuy will be selling food, and an “artist grove,” featuring everything from chocolate and yoga to clothing and photography, will also be present at the fairgrounds.
Watsonville Taiko will kick off the festival.
“We have such a great mix of different performers and bands,” Disheroon said. “We saw an opportunity to really promote some great local music in a cool, fun setting where cannabis is the showcase.”
Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door.
All of the proceeds from the festival will go to local nonprofits selected by organizers.
“That was one of our goals: to give back to the community,” Disheroon said.
Disheroon said he believes Power of Flower is the first music festival in the state to have an “open smoke” policy, which allows attendees to enjoy cannabis in all forms — drinks, dry herb, edibles, etc. — throughout the fairgrounds.
However, there will be only one cannabis vending site.
Power of Flower will be the first cannabis-related event in the fairgrounds this year, and only the second-ever in the venue’s recent history.
The first, Dreamsesh, flooded the fairgrounds with thousands of cannabis aficionados last April. That event happened before the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to allow cannabis-related events at the fairgrounds, and before the Fairgrounds Board of Directors’ decision to limit the events to four per year.
Fairgrounds manager Dave Kegebein called Dreamsesh “unorganized” and a teachable moment.
“That was a mistake that we don’t want to repeat,” Kegebein said.
Disheroon said that event caused a “big rift” between the cannabis industry and county officials that he does not want to reopen.
Kegebein said Disheroon has been easy to work with, and that he has followed every guideline put in place.
“I think it’s a matter of finding the right organizer and working with them,” Kegebein said. “That’s what I really liked about Colin, he cares about his reputation in the community…I think he’s in it for the long haul.”
Kegebein said the fairgrounds will also host Hempcon Halloweed later this year, and is open to other cannabis-related events.
“Our job at the fairgrounds is to serve the community and we have a big, broad, diverse community,” Kegebein said. “I’m always looking for new, unique events.”
Disheroon said the event was something the company toyed with earlier in the year but did not fully commit to until mid-May. There was a bit of hesitation from his staff when he first pitched the idea.
“I went around the room and asked everyone what they thought,” he said. “Everyone looked at me and said, ‘it’s gonna be crazy, but let’s do it.’”
Disheroon said he’d like to make Power of Flower a yearly event at the fairgrounds. He’d also like to take the event on the road to other neighboring communities that have burgeoning cannabis industries.
“We’d like to keep the same model, too,” Disheroon said. “Promote local music and give back to the communities we set up in.”
For information on the Power of Flower festival visit powerofflower.org.