Downtown Oakland was bustling with activity this weekend as people gathered to attend a marijuana street fair, touted as the first in the nation.
The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo was held on Saturday and Sunday across several blocks in the city's downtown, directly outside Oakland City Hall.
The event was held to make people aware about marijuana, hemp and Proposition 215, the California measure that legalized medical marijuana in the state in 1996.
The fair featured vendors, speakers, music as well as devices to enable the visitors to make their own hash, a marijuana derivative.
Anyone with a doctor's approval for cannabis use could smell, taste or otherwise imbibe an astonishing array of marijuana-based products, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
One of the more popular attractions was the 215 area, a spot located directly in front of the City Hall where those with a medical marijuana card could light up and indulge in a selection of cannabis treats.
Patients need to take their medicine when they need to, Kim Cue, a Berkeley resident who is the chief executive of the International Cannabis & Hemp Expo, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Being a patient myself, that's something that's mandatory.
Oakland has been central in the fight to normalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for more than 15 years. Elected officials and activists report that Oakland is the first city in the nation to license cannabis dispensaries. A section of the city in the north end of downtown Oakland is known as Oaksterdam for its abundant marijuana dispensaries and pot-related business.
In 2001, the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, one of the areas earliest dispensaries, lost a battle in the Supreme Court over legalizing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. The court ruled that the substance is illegal under federal law, despite the fact that California law recognizes that there is a medical use for the substance.
In 2004, city voters elected in favor of Measure Z, a measure that made possession of small amounts of marijuana the lowest priority for police.
In 2009, Oakland voters passed a measure to tax and regulate cannabis businesses, the first law of its kind in the U.S.
Even though the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana to be highly addictive with no legitimate medical use, scientists claim that marijuana can effectively treat ailments such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, depression and help patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Only adults attended the marijuana fair. Medical marijuana is currently legal -- with various regulations -- in 16 states and Washington, D.C.