Ganja have a good time

It’s celebration season in Juneau.

But before Celebration — the biennial festival of Alaska Native culture, which will draw Native peoples from around Southeast Alaska to Centennial Hall in early June — people from all over the panhandle will gather for a festival of a different sort.

This Saturday at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, members of the cannabis community will gather for the capital city’s second Southeast Alaska Cannabis Celebration.

The celebration’s co-organizers Jessie Herman-Haywood and James Marcus described the upcoming event as a cross between a trade show and a music festival — “a grassroots, low-budget affair,” Marcus said. But the festival’s low-budget shouldn’t be met with low expectations, the organizers said.

Festivalgoers still won’t be able to purchase any marijuana at this year’s Cannabis Celebration, as state-issued retail permits won’t be available until September. But Herman-Haywood and Marcus said they were really able to step up the music lineup this year.

The two were able to secure six different acts — in addition to two DJs — from a variety of genres, including hip-hop, reggae and blues. Herman-Haywood and Marcus said that the diversity of the lineup is in response to the diversity of the cannabis community. Last year, the event drew more than 300 people of all different ages and interests, united by their enthusiasm for cannabis.

“What was really cool about last year’s event — and this year’s event — is that we bring people from all walks of life because there are people from all segments of society that use cannabis,” Marcus said.

And in order to keep them entertained, Herman-Haywood and Marcus are flying Deering & Down, formerly of Juneau, up from their current home in Memphis, Tennessee, to headline the festival.

Before the music starts, festivalgoers will be able to attend seminars where they can learn the basic of cannabis cultivation and extraction. Other seminars will teach industry aspirants how to work with local governments so they can get off to a clean, legal start.

Brothers James and Giono Barrett, cofounders of local cannabis cultivating and retail outfit Rainforest Farms LLC, started the event last year to celebrate the legalization of marijuana cultivation and sale in the Last Frontier.

“The Barrett Brothers planted the seed; no pun intended,” Marcus said. Though the Barretts started the event, they are currently busy getting their business off the ground and have passed the Cannabis (Celebration) to Marcus and Herman-Haywood, who was also a co-organizer of last year’s festival.

Herman-Haywood and Marcus have both worked at Excellent Radio in the past — Herman-Haywood worked there for eight years, and Marcus currently works as a volunteer DJ. They both said their radio experience has helped them organize the event, but having an additional radio person at her side isn’t the only thing that has made organizing this year’s festival easier than last year, Herman-Haywood said.

The stigma surrounding the recently legalized industry made putting together last year’s celebration difficult, she said. But now that people have “had a year to sit on it,” that stigma wasn’t so stifling.

“Last year, we were told ‘no,’ so much, but this year everyone seemed really into it,” she said. “That was really refreshing.”

Both organizers reiterated that city and state laws currently prohibit smoking marijuana in public places, such as the JACC. But this year the festival will be selling beer, wine and food from several vendors, including Bear Den Fry Bread, Dupont Dogs and Pie in the Sky.

The festival will run from 4 p.m. until midnight. Tickets are on sale now online and at the JACC. They are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. To purchase tickets online go to The festival is 21 and up.

Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or at

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