DID THE Oregon State Fair award a blue ribbon for pot plants?

NOT QUITE. However, the Oregon State Fair featured a display with nine exemplary pot plants, selected from a larger pool and based on an independent competition. A significant amount of ink was spilled over these particular plants in widely distributed media like the Guardian and USA Today, probably because no state fair had ever allowed a display of living cannabis. So, once again, Oregon has raised the bar with weed.

The plants themselves were immature, meaning they were not producing flowering bud. The plants also contained zero THC content and therefore could not get anyone high. Even if the plants were loaded with THC and heavy with buds, however, fairgoers could not have enjoyed them in the traditional manner. This is due to the law against public weed use, which includes fairgrounds. (I realize that this may be confusing for anyone who has attended the Oregon Country Fair.)

I will confess that I have never attended our state fair, and, having seen a plant or two in my line of work, I did not feel compelled to make the trek. My information, however, is that the display was restricted to adults 21 and over. I also understand that each interested adult was required to provide photo identification prior to entering the tent. Feeling leery of a possible peep show vibe, I watched a few videos of fairgoers at the display and was relieved to see that it all looked pretty normal.

Of course, the fair did not offer any opportunity for attendees to actually purchase or receive marijuana and it would not be allowed to do so without an Oregon Liquor Control Commission license (which the fair would not have been able to acquire). But the Oregon State Fair’s action shows a growing acceptance of, and even pride in, marijuana. Just last year, the Oregon Cannabis Business Council was permitted to hand out literature on pot at the fair. Next year, we may see ribbons awarded. And who knows? One day there could even be a baking competition. This is a state fair, after all.

The trailblazing display shows that even traditional Oregon cultural institutions have begun to accept the idea of legal cannabis, which is an official crop under our state statutes and a bona fide part of the Oregon identity. Because the fair is a celebration of Oregon’s culture, it makes sense to include stunning weed plants alongside the 4-H dog show, the laser light show, the Foreigner and CCR sets, and everything else that looked so delightful in Oregon State Fair literature.

The longer marijuana is legal, the more normalized it will become. If the Oregon State Fair continues to include cannabis displays in coming years, the plant could eventually become as American as apple pie, or maybe even laser lights and Foreigner. It seems we are well on the way.

UPDATE Sept. 9, 2016: Some readers have pointed out that the cannabis plants featured at the Oregon State Fair were, in fact, displayed with blue ribbons. Those ribbons were awarded at the Oregon Cannabis Grower's Fair two weeks prior to the State Fair. Despite being on display, the Oregon State Fair did not bestow blue ribbons on any cannabis plants.