Hemp Fest attendees lined up for 'edibles'

A menu of “edibles” being sold during Hemp Fest on Saturday is shown.

About 50 people stood in line around 11 a.m. Saturday at Hemp Fest in Moscow's East City Park waiting to buy what one called "dessert" and another labeled "edibles."

The seller's handprinted menu, passed up and down the line, was offering - for $6 each - "brownies," "Lemon Raspberry Bars," and "Chocklate cookie, white chip macadamia nut." At the bottom, it said, "chocklates ask me" and gave a western Washington phone number.

Either everyone in line was eager to overpay for these baked goods for some reason, or the sale items contained marijuana. "Edibles" is the term used for baked goods infused with marijuana. The prices were close to those charged at retail pot shops in Pullman for similar items.

At the head of the line, a gray-bearded man pulled the items out of a small cooler for customers. His fanny pack was bulging with $1 and $5 bills to make change. The "Double whamy" cost $8. He was busy and didn't respond when asked by a reporter what it contained.

Hemp Fest is known as a place to learn more about hemp and marijuana while enjoying music and buying craft items, paraphernalia and other products either made of - or related to - these materials. Politics is a big part of the event because promoting legalization of marijuana and hemp is the priority for those involved.

Some people at the festival simply go to meet friends. Passing around a small bag of pot or a small plate of pot brownies to enjoy while sitting in the park is commonplace.

When Hemp Fest organizer Arlene Falcon was asked whether edibles were sold there she replied, "Yes."

She asked later that this fact not be published in the newspaper.

No city official noticed the commercial sales of marijuana edibles in a city park.

No one reported it to the Moscow Police Department, either. Officers made patrols around East City Park and walked through the event area several times during the nine-hour event "but didn't see illegal activities," said Police Chief David Duke.

If they had seen someone selling such foods, the department would have to prove the items were indeed laced with marijuana, so they would have taken them as evidence and had them analyzed.

If the items were infused with marijuana, the seller would have been cited or arrested, depending on the circumstances, Duke said.

It's a felony in Idaho to sell or distribute marijuana and selling such items could fall within that description, he said.

At least one state health official was at the park and focused on food sales, but didn't notice them being sold either. They inspected food vendors, including food trucks, and issued them event licenses.

Most home-baked goods - cottage foods - aren't prohibited at such events, said Ed Marugg, environmental health director, North Central District.

"We don't have to issue them a license," said Marugg. "Cottage foods can be made in home. People bring them to an event and sell them. We wouldn't regulate them."

The health department wouldn't have known these items contained marijuana unless it was noted on the menu, on the individually packaged items or if they were told this particular ingredient was used.

If they had been informed the brownies and bars contained pot, they would have contacted police because they don't regulate marijuana.

"But we know that it's illegal to sell these items," Marugg said.

He also said buying such homemade edibles can be risky. The amount of marijuana contained in one of these sweets sold at a public event or even on the street would be unknown to the purchaser.

"There are definitely hazards ingesting something like that," he warned. "Especially for children and pets."

The line for edibles at Moscow's Hemp Fest shortened fairly quickly, and the seller appeared to have shut down long before the event ended at 7 p.m.

Even though the state of Washington has legalized marijuana use, it still doesn't allow sales or consumption of marijuana in public.

"I like Hemp Fest. It's a fun event," said City Councilor Jim Boland, who advocated marijuana and hemp legalization while running for office in 2015.

He has said legalizing marijuana would save taxpayers a great deal of money if many of these offenders were no longer incarcerated.

"I haven't seen or heard of anything about people disturbing the peace or being harmed at Hemp Fest," he said. "But if someone is selling things with THC in them it's probably illegal. And it would be out-of-bounds."

"We'll be watching for this next year," Duke said.

Terri Harber can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to tharber@dnews.com.

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