Marijuana has arguably been the drug of choice at music festivals since Woodstock in 1969. But as legalization spreads throughout the U.S., many festivals are actually cracking down on cannabis. Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the company behind festival-behemoth Coachella, has announced that all cannabis products are thoroughly prohibited at the event, even though pot is now fully legal in its home state of California.
Coachella is held in Indio, which decided to ban pot shops, but the fest itself actually takes place on private property. Preventing festival-goers from enjoying marijuana responsibly seems like a puzzling choice for a music promotion company, but the organization and its founder, Philip Anschutz, have a long history of supporting cannabis prohibition, among other conservative causes.
Between 2015 and 2016, Anschutz's personal foundation donated over $200,000 to Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and Smart Colorado, two groups fighting against legal cannabis in Anschutz's home state of Colorado, according to Freedom Leaf. The former oil tycoon's donations also made headlines last year after it was revealed that his foundation had been funding anti-LGBTQ+ groups. The 78-year-old billionaire owns several conservative publications, and his foundation has given financial support to pro-gun and pro-life Republican politicians.
AEG themselves also have a history of taking aggressive legal action against the cannabis industry. Last year, California canna-biz Lowell Farms created a special "Coachella blend" pack of pre-rolls as well as a cannabis flower crown, a take on the traditional festival headdress packed with a quarter ounce of herb. The company marketed these products on social media using the #Coachella hashtag, which drew the immediate ire of AEG. Days before the festival was about to kick off, Lowell Farms received a cease-and-desist letter from AEG demanding that they remove all social media posts containing the hashtag and immediately stop selling any Coachella-branded merchandise.
AEG and the Anschutz Foundation have both bowed to public pressure regarding their past conservative donations, though. Last year, after the revelation of Anschutz's anti-LGBTQ+ funding sparked outrage across social media and the press, AEG announced that they "immediately ceased all contributions to such groups." So there is hope that the groundswell of public support for cannabis will convince the conservative billionaire not to interfere with California's blooming adult-use industry, though don't expect any canna-vendors at Coachella 2k18.