- Vaughan council passed bylaw that forced cancellation of cannabis summer festival
- Cannabis smoking at festivals expected to be permitted more widely within five years
- Legal outdoor pot smoking falls under tobacco smoking rules in municipalities
Nearly one year after Canada legalized recreational cannabis, many municipalities prohibit it from being smoked at outdoor summer festivals despite the economic opportunities it could bring to communities, but industry experts view this as a mere hiccup for the country’s newest industry.
“People are creating new revenue generators every day with cannabis. Why not capitalize on it?” said Georges Routhier, chief executive of cannabis consultancy PipeDreemz, which works with 48 licensed producers as well as municipalities.
“I think there’s a huge business opportunity here. When you mix people who don’t do something with people who do do something, you can be nudged. It’s going to spread at these places, grassroots.”
Last week, the city of Vaughan, Ontario passed a new bylaw that, in turn, forced organizers of the Journey Cannabis and Music Festival to cancel the event. Previously set for late August in the Toronto suburb, the festival was expected to be the first of its kind in the country.
“I think it’s absolutely growing pains. I think in five years this will be a non-issue. It’s a herd mentality right now and people would much rather err on the side of caution,” Mr. Routhier said.
“The communities that capitalize on this, they’ll reap the benefits. I tell all our clients: ‘Go where you’re wanted.’”
Permitting cannabis at public events increases revenue in the region and turns the locale into a short-term destination, he added.
“Journey was about combating the illegal market and disrupting the stigma of cannabis through a three-day journey of education, celebration, and conservation,” said Murray Milthorpe, chief experience officer of Journey Cannabis and Music Festival.
Though Journey had signed contracts related to the event, Vaughan council passed a new smoking bylaw that allows documented medicinal cannabis smoking only. Mr. Milthorpe said he had not been informed that the bylaw was in the works while planning the cannabis festival, which had already sold tickets.
The plight of outdoor festival organizers who want to permit cannabis smoking does have some local governments on their side. Bingemans, an outdoor conference centre and event venue near Kitchener, Ont., will host the Ontario Cannabis Festival in September with a strict bring-your-own-cannabis policy.
“We see this time and time again. I think the issue in Vaughan is more a blanket restriction on smoking in public. A lot of municipalities are not differentiating between smoking tobacco and cannabis,” said Brenna Boonstra, director of Quality and Regulatory for Cannabis Compliance Inc.
“The way we’re approaching it is interesting. Sometimes we mimic what we’ve done with alcohol, sometimes tobacco, sometimes pharmaceuticals.”
Ms. Boonstra also views these restrictions as short-term growing pains and expects that a new kind of licensing process for establishments such as cannabis restaurants and lounges – where pot could be both sold and consumed at the same venue, which is not currently permitted – will be created in time.