PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Only two months stand between now and the scheduled start of a large music festival in Portsmouth.
As 10 On Your Side has previously reported, the 420ish Unity Festival is supposed to take place at the Portsmouth Sportsplex in late April. Organizers have been working with city officials to try to make it happen.
10 On Your Side checked in with the city on Friday, Feb. 18 and were told they were still waiting for the requested information from organizers and haven’t issued any permits for this event yet. However, an organizer says they’re confident they’ll get the necessary permits in time for the event, which is scheduled for April 23 and 24.
One of the festival’s investors, Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), took to Twitter to show her support.
Festival organizer Germain Green says Monday morning, he did a security walk-through of the venue with ESI event staffing.
“We’re going to coordinate them with the chief of police and the sheriff’s office to maintain the safety of the festival,” said Green.
About a week and a half ago, a Portsmouth city spokesperson said representatives from the city manager’s office, engineering, and police, met with the festival organizers. They said it was a positive meeting but needed more information about numbers needed for police and fire to cover the crowd.
He says they’re also in the process of getting letters from local businesses to use their parking lots. In a conditional permit letter to organizers from the city manager, several factors had to be addressed including a plan preventing festgoers from smoking marijuana on city-owned property.
Green says that’s no longer the case for the last item.
“Originally one of the conditions was that nobody could smoke cannabis here, but at the last meeting I had with city officials, it was to everybody’s understanding that it’s 28 grams of cannabis allowed, according to the new laws, we can’t stop that. We’re not going to stop anybody from smoking on the festival. The festival-goers will be allowed to smoke cannabis here, but I have to say this: if you are caught smoking outside the festival grounds, you’ll be issued a ticket from Portsmouth police,” said Green.
Under the law, smoking cannabis is permitted in private residences, but not in public. Green says once they put up a privacy fence around the event, it’s no longer public. Virginia law says “public place” means any place, building, or conveyance to which the public has, or is permitted to have, access.
10 On Your Side reached out to the city and Portsmouth police to see what they had to say about the topic of marijuana at the festival.
A Portsmouth Police spokesperson responded, “If the event is approved and laws are adhered to then we hope all involved stay safe, take precautions, and have a good time.”