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Friday, July 11, 2014

Oakland's Marijuana Scavenger Hunt Canceled, Thanks to Government Red Tape

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 8:39 AM

click to enlarge Canceled!
  • Canceled!

The mysterious force behind the weed scavenger hunt announced for Saturday has revealed herself: she's an entrepreneur from the East Coast, now head of a "tiny startup in Oakland." And she has bad news: the authorities have stepped in, so there's no more smartphone-powered weed giveaway on Saturday.

Flyers appearing in Oakland and 4x6 index cards dumped at Bay Area dispensaries last month advertised a treasure hunt, but with weed. For $35, seekers could join the "Bay Area Quest Hunt," where those who found 50 "cards" hidden around the city would be rewarded with various amounts of medical cannabis: concentrates, edibles, flowers.

Though just a "soft launch," the buzz was big, Dixon told SF Weekly late Thursday night, with bigger-than-expected ticket sales and 1,500 hits from a "less than $200 budget." But alerted cops were pointed: you need a license for that kind of pot party, which is a clear instance of over-regulation, she said.

"The city is categorizing us as a business that is dispensing marijuana (much like a dispensary)," she wrote in an e-mail. "Bay Area Quest Hunt is NOT a cannabis business."

Instead, the "entertainment/promotional/marketing vehicle that serves niche groups and niche interests with scavenger hunts," was providing a rare service for the good weed-loving people of Oakland: a marijuana-themed activity.

"I know we don't have events that cater to us and I wanted to help fill that void," she wrote, adding that though a newcomer, "this was my community as well."

She thought she had the state's medical marijuana laws figured out. "[W]e did not know all the details and all the fine print with local and state marijuana laws," she said, (state medical marijuana law, of course, has no details), and subsequently fell victim to government meddling.

"[Thursday], we received a notice from the City of Oakland/OPD stating that we are not licensed to have a medical marijuana business in the city of Oakland, we don't have the proper permits for this event, yada yada yada," she wrote, adding that with just two days before the event. "We just don't have the time or resources to fight Oakland or the OPD on this. We would rather eat our loss then close our doors in order to afford legal counsel to fight the city."

Dixon apparently ran into regulations limiting marijuana sales to registered dispensaries, and officials weren't convinced she'd be responsible with checking for valid medical marijuana recommendations, both bogus moves on the city's part, she said.

"As far as we were concerned, we were doing more than most dispensaries when it came to verifying medical marijuana recommendations," she wrote.

"Plus, we were not selling marijuana. Registering for the event did not guarantee that you will receive marijuana, we only guaranteed clues. If you did not find the prize card, you would not win anything. We were selling the hunt, not the prizes."

Dixon didn't say what would happen to any tickets already purchased or how many refunds might be issued. Instead, she looked to the future. Bay Area Quest Hunt will segue to things not related to marijuana. In August, look for a "craft beer hunt"; September will see "a family hunt."

Oakland police couldn't be reached for comment Thursday night. In the meantime, Dixon plans a sit-down with officials to explain what the startup is and how to make it legal.

"[A] marijuana-themed scavenger hunt will happen -- someday," she said.

And when it does, it'll be even bigger. "In fact, we are now talking about expanding it tenfold and seeing if we can set some sort of record for the largest cannabis scavenger hunt to ever take place! We will not be defeated!"

A tale of the fast rises and faster falls in startup culture, or the legally-murky world of marijuana business in California? Bay Area Quest is a little of both.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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