Calgary Stampede weed ban raises questions about smokers' rights
Drinking a beer in your cowboy boots is totally fine, but smoking a joint at the Calgary Stampede is off limits.
Organizers have banned the consumption of cannabis on Stampede grounds for both recreational and medical users. Weed is allowed to be brought into the event, but individuals will have to exit the gates to smoke it.
Organizers say they are simply following a Calgary bylaw that prohibits smoking cannabis in public spaces. But critics say the decision is heavy-handed and unfairly penalizes medical marijuana smokers, who are considered an exception in the city’s public consumption bylaw.
“It definitely shows that they are behind the times, cannabis has been legal for almost a year now,” Gordon Hayes, director of events with the Calgary Cannabis Club, told CTV Calgary.
Recreational cannabis was legalized last October after the Liberal government passed Bill C-45, also known as the Cannabis Act. Several provinces, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador, have passed laws banning public consumption of weed.
Calgary passed its bylaw six months before weed became legal nationwide.
Anyone who tries smoking weed at the Stampede will be asked to stop, organizers said, but no penalties are in place.
“We're just following suit with the City of Calgary bylaws and as a public gathering place for the community and a real focus on families, we've decided not to apply for a special event licence,” Calgary Stampede spokesperson Jennifer Booth said.
Even so, advocates raised concerns about medical cannabis users. They say that not allowing a person to consume medically-prescribed weed could violate their Charter rights.
“Leaving the site to medicate is not always an option for people who are severely ill,” Hayes said.
The Calgary Cannabis Club is pushing for a designated smoking “gardens” to be added to the Stampede grounds. But organizers say that’s not happening.