Hemp Vendor Says the Dallas Reggae Festival Unlawfully Denied Him a Permit

The Dallas Observer

Ryan Barnett thought his cannabis products would be the perfect fit for the city of Addison’s second annual Dallas Reggae Festival, scheduled to take place April 7–9. But the city of Addison disagreed, and now Barnett says there’s a hole in his budget that will make it hard for his business to survive.

Barnett is the CEO of Elev8ted Foods, a cannabis company based in Addison. He was once a chef in Dallas, but after the pandemic broke out, he decided he didn’t want to work in restaurants anymore.

Eventually, he heard about something called delta-8 THC. Like regular THC, delta-8 is a psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that can get users high. Delta-8 is often described as a less potent form of THC, and it’s legal under state and federal hemp laws (for now at least).

When Barnett did more research into the stuff, he found out that delta-8 has effects similar to regular THC when it’s ingested.


In preparation for his grand opening, which is scheduled for April 20, he wanted to participate in Addison’s reggae festival at Addison Circle Park and advertise his new store with a bunch of merchandise. This, the city’s second annual Reggae Fest, will offer a variety of music acts, Caribbean food and vendors of jewelry. Barnett says cannabis products were sold at the last festival, so he didn’t think he would have any trouble getting a permit to do the same.

He applied for the permit and bought a bunch of merchandise for the three-day festival. As it turned out, he was wrong to assume Addison would just hand over a permit. Instead, Addison Deputy City Manager John Crawford told Barnett in a March 23 email that the city didn’t want cannabis products sold at its events and that he would be denied the permit.

“The town of Addison does not currently permit the temporary sale or distribution of cannabis products at town-sponsored special events,” Crawford wrote in the email. “Accordingly, the town is unable to issue a vendor permit to Elev8ted Foods for this event.”

Barnett believes that Addison’s denial of his permit is against state hemp laws. Texas law prohibits municipalities from banning the processing, manufacturing or sale of hemp or consumable hemp products. To him, that’s exactly what Addison is doing by denying him a permit to sell his products at the reggae festival. “The law very clearly spells out that they can’t do what they’re doing,” he said.

He started a petition online to try to get Addison to give him a permit. He also reached out to his state representatives and the Texas Department of State Health Services, which regulates consumable hemp products, to see if it could do something about it.

There was a lot riding on this festival for Barnett and his business. He had already spent a lot of money on merchandise and expected to make some of it back at the festival. “I’m literally stuck,” he says.

Perry Joe Williams, manager of retail food safety operations for DSHS, responded to Barnett that the agency couldn’t do anything about his situation.

“I am sorry for the situation in which you find yourself,” Williams wrote in an email to Barnett on March 27. “However, DSHS does not have authority over another political subdivision. [Consumable hemp product] operators should seek their own legal counsel when encountering obstacles with other political subdivisions, including municipalities. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.”

Barnett was initially planning to hand out free samples and bong rips of his products in the area where the festival is taking place in protest of his permit denial. But local police told him they weren’t sure if that would be legal. So, he’s opted to open his store early to try to recover some of the lost revenue from not being allowed at the reggae festival. 

“I’m not shocked.” – Chelsie Spencer, attorney

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Mary Rosenbleeth, a spokesperson for Addison, told the Observer in an email that the temporary sale or distribution of tobacco or cannabis products is not allowed at the city’s special events at public parks. This is specifically prohibited at the reggae fest, Rosenbleeth said. “The Reggae Festival’s permit specifically prohibits … all vendors from selling hemp products. This includes but is not limited to any product that is intended for human consumption and/or contains hemp-derived CBD or other cannabinoids,’” she wrote. “Accordingly, the town is unable to issue an event permit to any vendors selling those products.”

Chelsie Spencer, a cannabis lawyer at Addison-based Ritter Spencer PLLC, says she hears stories like this all the time. “I’m not shocked,” Spencer says of Barnett’s situation. “This is how this plays out in reality. While we do have statutory protections that prohibit any municipality, state or local, from interfering with the state’s lawful hemp program, unfortunately our regulatory agencies do very little in the event that a city does take a step that impinges on the lawful sale of the product.”

Spencer says she would’ve thought that DSHS would reach out and communicate with Addison officials  about all of this.

“But they don’t, and so that puts the onus on the individual,” she says.

Spencer adds that most situations like Barnett’s take a lawsuit to resolve, but many hemp businesses don’t have the money to fund one.

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