The weather on the Calgary Stampede’s opening day this year definitely lent itself to enjoying a cold beer, but what happens next year when cannabis is legalized?
The federal government had been talking about legalization by July 1 of this year – a deadline that has now been pushed to October – but according to Jim Laurendeau, vice president of planning with the Calgary Stampede, even with that possibility looming, they didn’t worry about it too much this year.
“We were aware of the possibility of it coming on July 1. But until there was a little more to go on we didn’t invest a whole lot of time in a bunch of “what if” scenarios until it was just a little bit more defined,” he said.
He said there were no plans ready in case cannabis was legal for Stampede time. However the team had started looking at other jurisdictions where cannabis is legal – and specifically large public events – to see how they handled it.
Laurendeau said right now they’re focused on having the best possible Stampede this year, and they will be ready for next year’s event.
“We’re going to get even more clarity between now and October when the legislation is passed and the Alberta context starts to form. We’ll have the winter months to study the issues,” he said.
“Certainly it will be a balance between those who chose to use marijuana and those who don’t.
The City of Calgary is still getting its bylaws in place for festivals. Council decided to go with a model where cannabis consumption zones would be fenced off.
At the time of the debate, Councillor Jyoti Gondek expressed concern with the direction Calgary was choosing.
“It puzzles me that we’re going to treat cannabis like it’s tobacco if it’s at a festival, like it’s some magical place that’s different, but everywhere else in the city we have to treat it like it’s alcohol,” said Gondek.
Right now, the Calgary Stampede doesn’t allow people to smoke tobacco just anywhere. They have designated zones that are well marked on maps, so smokers can find their way to them.
“They’re a little bit out of the way,” said Laurendeau. “And that just helps all of the non-smokers on the park enjoy their time here as well.”
He reminded all stampeders that cannabis is still illegal and cannot be consumed on the Stampede grounds.
“So far we haven’t seen any change in behavior or an increase (of cannabis use) in Stampede Park and we’re pleased about that,” he said.