Smoking Cannabis at Canadian Music Festivals: A Province-by-Province Guide

Smoking Cannabis at Canadian Music Festivals: A Province-by-Province Guide
Photo: Joshua Peter Grafstein
Music festivals are a perfect place to enjoy some cannabis while soaking up summer vibes, but even with Canada's recreational legalization, concertgoers aren't getting a free pass to toke up wherever they please.
 
With the federal government's decision to leave the specific laws on many issues up to provinces and municipalities, every festival across the country could have a slightly different policy based on several factors.
 
If you're looking to use cannabis at an event this summer, it would be advisable to look up not only the festival's policy on cannabis use but also the local laws to ensure you are acting accordingly.
 
Here's what you should know about using cannabis at music festivals across the country.
 
 
General Guidelines
 
If a festival has no policy stated on using cannabis at their event, it's likely they're either waiting to see how other festivals in their region are reacting to the changing laws before making a decision or don't want it used in their space.
 
In a scenario like this, you could ask the organizers in advance how they are preparing to handle cannabis consumption or simply use before arriving. When festivals do not have designated cannabis areas, following municipal or provincial rules for tobacco is recommended, as well as being aware of your surroundings to ensure you're not bothering your fellow festivalgoers with your smoke.
 
It's also advisable to look into the specific rules set out for using cannabis at a festival, even if they have a designated cannabis consumption area. Some festivals have policies that allow for cannabis use onsite but have guidelines for what you can bring, often limiting to pre-rolled joints as opposed to loose leaf buds, edibles, concentrates or other products.
 
Skip down below to read about how each province, from west to east, is doing things at the moment.
 
 
British Columbia:
 
British Columbia has historically been the weed capital of Canada, so it's no surprise their consumption laws are fairly reasonable. Public use is permitted in most places tobacco use is also allowed, with few restrictions beyond that. Cannabis users heading to music festivals in BC this year just need to be mindful of not lighting up in provincial parks outside of designated areas or sports fields, though there are further restrictions that won't pertain to music fests, which you can read up on here.
 
Festivals in British Columbia are starting to embrace the designated smoking area route for cannabis users. Grand Forks' Cannafest, for example, explicitly has a section under their info regarding cannabis explaining smoking should only be done in appropriate locations due to children with breathing issues, and encourages attendees to use their ashtrays to keep the grounds clean. 
 
 
Alberta:
 
Albertans are allowed to consume cannabis in some public places where tobacco is allowed, but the province is also letting municipalities create their own bylaws. This means you should be double-checking local laws before heading out to a festival with weed in hand.
 
For example, Calgary has a bylaw prohibiting public use of cannabis anywhere, yet, some festivals are pushing back on this. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Calgary Folk Music Fest's executive director Sara Leishman says they're trying to work out details for a fenced-in enclosure where people can toke up.
 
"It's not going to be like a lounge or anything like that," says Leishman. "It's simply going to be an area where people can smoke and then leave."
 
Similarly, Edmonton Folk Music Festival will have a designated cannabis smoking area on their grounds. Festival producer Terry Wickham told the Toronto Star that people have been smoking weed on the hills at the festival for years, but hopes the new designated area will encourage people to be more courteous about their use.
 
"If people are sitting at a stage, they shouldn't be exposed to any kind of smoke, especially children," Wickham said.
 
 
Saskatchewan:
 
Saskatchewan has a ban on public cannabis consumption, so don't expect to be lighting up at a music fest in the prairie province any time soon. Country Thunder's director of marketing and sales Gerry Krochak told Global News that while cannabis is allowed at individual campsites and within certain areas on the grounds, it's still not allowed to be used in the main event space.
 
"We don't have a policy, per se. Because of the legalization, everyone's world has changed," said Krochak. "We have two designated smoking areas, we do not have designated cannabis areas."
 
Krochak further explained campsites are considered private, allowing people to use the plant as they please but it does not change the public use laws.
 
"This is a family event, especially the main concert bowl and main street. Most people don't even smoke cigarettes in those cases, so we would hope they would exercise the same level of respect," Krochak said.
 
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) further made their stance clear, outlining that no music festivals in Saskatchewan will be allowed to designate areas for cannabis use.
 
"Festivals cannot designate public areas where cannabis can be consumed," the SLGA told Global News in a release. "Current rules in Saskatchewan do not allow for permits to be issued that would allow cannabis to be consumed in public areas."
 
 
Manitoba:
 
Taking a more strict approach, Manitoba has outlawed public cannabis use entirely. Many of this summer's music festivals in Manitoba take place in provincial parks where recreational use is completely off-limits, and even medical use is severely restricted.
 
Winnipeg Folk Fest's executive director Lynne Skromeda tells Global News the festival is even sending out an info package with tickets explaining the rules and regulations regarding cannabis use.
 
"We have a very well-behaved and very respectful audience, so they know how to behave," says Skromeda. "They're just there for a good time, so they're not there to worried about over consuming any substance really. They're just there to have a good time so the new cannabis laws don't really affect them at all."
 
RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine told Global News that people camping on federal park grounds are allowed to smoke at their campsites, but should check local laws before they do so.
 
"There's different things you can look at and know what you're allowed to do and what you aren't. As police officers we use discretion based on circumstances — what's going on before issuing anything, so there's always that that plays into it."
 
Essentially, if you want to use cannabis at a music festival in Manitoba you're going to have to do it before heading to the event.
 
 
Ontario:
 
Cannabis consumption in Ontario is permitted in most outdoor areas, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Smoking in reserved seating areas at entertainment and sporting events is not permitted, but if the festival is generally open to consumption then other areas of the festival grounds, where tobacco would be permitted, are good to go. As you should do anytime you use cannabis, be mindful of the people around you since many festivals will have children or people who just don't want smoke around them.
 
It's also important to look into municipal bylaws that overrule provincial laws, as that could affect whether or not cannabis is fine to use onsite. The Journey Cannabis and Music Festival was recently cancelled by the City of Vaughan due to a new bylaw that states smoking cannabis in a public space is only allowed if the cannabis is medicinal and the individual has the required medical documentation.  
 
Festivals that do permit cannabis use will often state their policy on their website, just as the Toronto Festival of Beer has. This festival is hosting a designated smoking area where patrons will be able to bring a small quantity of "personal use only" cannabis, but they're limiting each person to a maximum of three pre-rolled joints or blunts. Make sure to leave any loose-leaf buds, edibles, oils or other products at home or you will be denied entry.
 
In June, Kitchener's Ever After Music Festival and the Toronto Craft Beer Festival had similar policies where designated areas were set up with limits on how much people could bring in with them.
 
 
Quebec:
 
The cannabis laws in Quebec have been changing frequently since legalization, but they're going ahead with public consumption now. Initially, the province banned public use anywhere tobacco was prohibited along with several other locations — bars, restaurants, universities, sports centres, daycares, schools, hospitals, bus shelters and within nine metres of the doors and windows of these places.
 
This has since changed after concluding public consumption isn't enforceable. However, the province is giving greater power to municipalities to create their own public use laws, so you're still not guaranteed to be allowed to smoke in public. As with most provinces, checking the local laws of the town or city you're heading to is the best bet to make sure you're fine to smoke. Contacting festival organizers ahead of time is also key as they can set their own rules for their event space even if it is allowed in that particular municipality.
 
 
 
Nova Scotia:
 
Nova Scotia's stance on smoking or vaping weed in public follows the Smoke-free Places Act, which was established as a baseline for how to consume tobacco, cannabis e-cigarettes and other combustibles. The act allows municipalities to create their own bylaws for stricter enforcement though, so make sure to double-check the region you're headed to.
 
Smoking is generally considered illegal in most enclosed spaces, but public outdoor areas are a little different. Cannabis users won't be able to use on or within 20 metres of publicly owned sporting or recreational property. The province also outlawed smoking at provincial parks and beaches, with the exception of rented campsites. 
 
 
Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador:
 
At the moment, cannabis users on the East Coast outside of Nova Scotia will have to make do with smoking at home. Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have all outlawed public consumption of cannabis aside from medical patients, who can still only use in designated areas as they were allowed before recreational legalization. If you're looking to attend a music festival in any of these provinces, you'll have to either live there or visit a friend's home to smoke weed, and leave everything behind prior to getting into the fest.