Weed festival organizers leave Polk

Concerns over Canna Fest 2018 led to the festival organizers moving the location of their festival outside of Polk County. 

POLK COUNTY – Canna Fest Florida 2018 is being billed as the largest marijuana event in the southeast United States.

When 11,000+ people express interest in attending a weed fest in Lakeland on social media, that is naturally going to draw the attention of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Polk County Board of County Commissioners.

On Aug. 21 County Commissioner George Lindsey asked County Attorney Michael Craig whether the event venue had “all of their ducks in a row.”

“Today there is a letter that will be sent out to Maddox Ranch outlining our concerns,” Craig replied.

County Attorney Craig said that Maddox Ranch, an event venue in Lakeland where Canna Fest 2018 was supposed to take place Oct. 13 and 14, is only permitted to allow up to 500 event goers and if the property owner did not apply for a permit allowing more, and be approved for such, the county may file an injunction to stop the event. Craig further stated he did not object to the content of the festival. He said a few years ago, the county filed an injunction to stop an Easter egg hunt just outside of Lake Wales because they did not have the proper permit. Commissioners then voted unanimously to allow Craig to file an injunction in this case if necessary.

Festival organizers Jeremy Gomez and Nate Jurewicz of Generation Entertainment Florida were not aware of any of this until contacted by the newspaper. The festival organizers say that they are being singled out and harassed for supporting medical marijuana and that when they signed a contract with Maddox Ranch owner Lynne Maddox in January, they were told she had proper permitting. Since then they said they have spent tens of thousands of dollars marketing the festival only to be told at the last minute of problems.

Jurewicz alleged that Sheriff Grady Judd “intimidated” Maddox into canceling the festival.

“I was not intimidated at all,” Maddox said.

Maddox said in January the festival was billed as Hemp Fest. When the name of the festival was changed to Canna Fest 2018 she had some reservations and that she was not aware of the permitting issue until recently. Maddox said she had already canceled the contract with the organizers and returned their deposit prior to the county commission meeting Aug. 21.

“If they come to Polk County and violate the law we are going to put them in jail, that is a guarantee,” Sheriff Judd said. “So I highly suggest if they are bringing a drug festival here or any illegal festival, go someplace else. My warning is simple if you don’t want to be locked up, if you come here and violate the law you will go to jail, period.”

After being contacted by the Winter Haven Sun the festival organizers posted a video on social media alleging discrimination.

“We don’t feel like we have been treated fairly by the county commission and the sheriff,” Jurewicz said. “We are not really happy with what Lynn Maddox did but we understand. My prayers go out to her I hope that she is okay and I wish her and Maddox Ranch the best. I hope that Maddox Ranch does not get too much bad PR out of this.”

Maddox said some festival supporters have made negative comments on social media since the conflict was made public.

Canna Fest 2018 is now scheduled to take place Oct. 13 and 14 in Levy County up near Gainesville. Jurewicz said it cost more to rent space there, that it was in the middle of nowhere, that they would have preferred to host it in Lakeland and that he had no idea whether the new venue was permitted properly.

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