NORTHAMPTON – Pouring rain and gusts of wind did not stop visitors from celebrating 420 (an homage to cannabis held nationally on April 20) at the Three County Fairgrounds.
While marijuana is not sold at Extravaganja, celebrating medicinal and recreational use of the substance is all a part of the fun of the event which is now in its 28th year.
â€śAbout 3,500 people purchased tickets online ahead of the event and they can still purchase them online today,â€ť said Claire Walsh, president of the University of Massachusetts Amherstâ€™s Cannabis Reform Coalition, which organizes the yearly event.
Nearly 90 vendors braved the swamp-like conditions of the grounds to sell everything from hemp plants to CBD face masks and hand blown glass pipes.
Dan Battat, of Battat Glass in Holyoke, displayed beautifully crafted, colorful glass pieces ranging from pipes to jewelry and drinking glasses.
â€śToday Iâ€™m showing all smokeware pieces from pipes for concentrate to jewelry and drinking glasses,â€ť said who manned the booth along with Amneris Villanueva.
Courtney Mathien and Alice Lepier, of Danielson, Connecticut and Josh Latour, of Webster, stopped at the booth to look at the one-of-a-kind pieces.
â€śThere are some really beautiful pieces here,â€ť Mathien said. â€śThere was another booth that had some iridescent unicorn looking pieces which I really liked too.â€ť
It was Mathien and Latourâ€™s first time at the event.
â€śItâ€™s my fourth year coming and I just dragged them along,â€ť said Lepier.
Wormtown Trading Company was at the event selling everything from stones and gems to T-shirts.
â€śShiny rocks are great for stoned hippies,â€ťKevin Oâ€™Brien said jokingly. â€śWe sell rocks, stones, silvers, trinkets and clothing. Itâ€™s our third year at this event.”
Some vendors like Matthew McTeague, of The Wellness Spot, luxury CBD store in Springfield, tried to hold down their tents as the wind and rain knocked everything over. McTeague opened his shop in Springfield on Main Street in November of 2018.
â€śSpringfield is definitely a city on the rise so we came in at the perfect time,â€ť he said. â€śWe specialize in premium quality CBD products.â€ť
Some of the most popular items sold at his store and on display during Extravaganja were lotions, bath bombs and even face masks infused with CBD oil.
â€śCBD is hemp derived so there is little to no THC in it. There are a lot of medicinal benefits from helping with muscle pain to insomnia and anxiety,â€ť he said.
Selling what looked a lot like marijuana or herb plants were Harry Vandoloski and Melinda Nielsen, of Harmeladise Farm in Hadley.
â€śThis is actually medicinal hemp. Itâ€™s a cannabis, but the difference between cannabis that is hemp and cannabis that is marijuana is if it has more than .3 percent THC. All of this is .3 percent or less, so you canâ€™t get high on it,â€ť she said. â€śHowever it has a high level of CBD which is valued for treating epilepsy, stress and pain.â€ť
The event is also an opportunity to educate visitors on a variety of topics from the politics around legalization to a panel discussion with local growers about home cultivation of cannabis.
â€śPart of what we do as activists and cultivators is advocate for home cultivation,â€ť said Ellen Brown, an activist and grower whoâ€™s mission is to de-stigmatize the plant and its use. â€śIn Connecticut and other neighboring states they do not allow for home cultivation…they have veterans and people in need that could really benefit from this medicine and the more people that grow, it floods the market which brings down the price at the dispensaries, which is better for the consumers.â€ť
Terry Franklin, a longtime supporter of Extravaganja and a speaker at the event said there are many presidential candidates supporting the use of medicinal and recreational marijuana now.
â€śIâ€™m here to talk about presidential and local politics. We have had third party candidates support this issue in the past, but now we are getting Democratic and Republican candidates like Tulsie Gabbard and Bernie Sanders and William Weld who are very good on this issue,â€ť he said.
The two medicinal and recreational cannabis shops near the fairgrounds, INSA in Easthampton and NETA in Northampton were both busy with lines out the door in Easthampton on Saturday morning and a steady flow of customers, both medicinal and recreational in Northampton.
Walsh said the new regulations and shops will not have an effect on the annual event.
â€śWe are hoping to continue holding this as a community building event and a political rally because it doesnâ€™t really have anything to do with the sale of cannabis,â€ť she said. â€śThis event is an opportunity to serve the community through education and giving them a platform to advocate for themselves. Even though there are laws now they are not perfect and there can be a lot of changes, especially for medical patients.â€ť
Walsh said the coalition is looking for a new location to host the annual event next year since the town of Northampton has become increasingly restrictive since the event was moved to the grounds in 2016 after it outgrew the downtown Amherst location.
From age restrictions to permitting and ticket fees Walsh said the requirements are making it difficult for people to attend, particularly medicinal marijuana patients under the age of 21. People under the age of 18 were only allowed entry if they are students at one of the schools in the Five Collage system. Money from ticket sales will be donated to the Massachusetts Bail Fund, she said.
â€śThis event has always been free in the past and we donâ€™t promote the sale of cannabis here so thereâ€™s no reason why there should be an age limit. This is a political rally and should be open to people of all ages,â€ť she said. â€śWe are really disappointed in the town and are looking elsewhere to hold the event next year.â€ť