Cannabis banned along with alcohol for May long weekend at Riding Mountain campsites

Heading into the first May long weekend since the legalization of recreational cannabis, Manitobans who smoke or vape the leaf face a confusing set of rules governing where they can and cannot consume the stuff outdoors.

Provincial parks lift weekend booze ban again — but recreational cannabis won't be allowed

The only outdoor space where cannabis will be permitted this weekend in Manitoba is a yard on private property. (CBC)

Heading into the first Victoria Day long weekend since the legalization of cannabis, Manitobans who smoke or vape the leaf face a confusing set of rules governing where they can and can not consume the stuff outdoors.

Under Manitoba law, you may only smoke legally on private property — which, in practical terms, means your own yard or that of someone you know and who, preferably, is aware of your presence.

In a provincial park, you may not smoke or vape cannabis in any public space.

And in a national park, you can only consume cannabis at your own campsite — except for this weekend.

Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba's only road-accessible national park, is banning the consumption of both cannabis and alcohol at campsites and Otentik sites for the duration of the May long weekend.

The ban on both legal intoxicants follows a long-running May long weekend ban on campground booze, said Richard Dupuis, Riding Mountain's visitor experience manager.

"By having this in place, it helps with behaviour in our campgrounds," Dupuis said in a telephone interview from Wasagaming, explaining that long weekends used to attract rowdier groups to campgrounds.

Cannabis consumption is permitted at Riding Mountain National Park campsites, such as this one at Lake Audy, but not during the May long weekend, when intoxicants are banned. (Inayat Singh/CBC)

That appears to be changing, he added, surmising long-weekend bans on psychoactive substances may not be long for national parks.

"I think our visitors have shifted over the years," he said. "We've seen a shift in our camping, where it's more family based."

Alcohol OK, but no pot at provincial parks

Provincial parks have seen the same shift. In 2018, Manitoba's provincial parks lifted the long-weekend alcohol ban as a pilot project.

That test was successful and was extended to this season, said Elisabeth Ostrop, recreation and education manager for Manitoba's provincial parks.

No problems with alcohol were reported last season, she said.

"Provided campers continue to drink responsibly, we'll consider continuing to remove the long weekend liquor ban," Ostrop said.

There will be no legal cannabis consumption in provincial park campgrounds, as smoking or vaping weed isn't permitted in Manitoba parks, she noted.

In Riding Mountain National Park, the only place cannabis consumption is permitted is at a campsite, except for this weekend and potentially other long weekends.

You are not, however, permitted to light up while walking down the street in Wasagaming or hiking along the trail, Riding Mountain's Dupuis explained, because the park respects the provincial ban on cannabis consumption in public spaces.

In the eyes of the park, a campsite is a private space.

"When you're there, we consider that as your residence and in Manitoba you can smoke cannabis at your residence. So we allow cannabis at your campsite only," said Dupuis, adding legal cannabis is just as new for the park as it is for visitors.

"This will be our first camping season going through this."

Cannabis consumption was legalized last October, but there remain few public places where it's permitted in Manitoba. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In Manitoba, the fine for cannabis consumption in a public space is $672. But it remains to be seen how much enforcement there will be of cannabis consumption in far-flung areas of Manitoba's national and provincial parks, never mind Crown land outside of parks.

The Mounties don't intend to scour the woods and waters in search of backcountry campers brazen enough to blaze up in the middle of nowhere.

"We treat cannabis consumption similar to how we treat alcohol consumption, and we do use discretion based on the situation and circumstances," RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said in a statement.

"If you are going to use cannabis or alcohol, please be responsible."

If you do consume cannabis in a permitted outdoor space, whether it's your own backyard or a national-park campsite, there are ways to ensure your neighbours — say, those with small children — won't even notice the smoke.

Vaporizers that employ combustion chambers, rather than heating coils, remove most of the odour from cannabis, said Roman Panchyshyn, who sells smoking and vaping devices at his Osborne Village store, Wild Planet.

There are also carbon filters that scrub the cannabis odour from exhaled smoke, he said.

There's also a low-tech solution to the olfactory equivalent of playing music your neighbours don't want to hear: build a campfire. 

You know, provided that's permitted.

Alcohol OK, but no pot at provincial parks

3 years ago
Duration 2:20
Heading into the first Victoria Day long weekend since the legalization of cannabis, Manitobans who smoke or vape the leaf face a confusing set of rules governing where they can and can not consume the stuff outdoors.


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