Cannabis Cruise in jeopardy over concerns with provincial smoking rules, says organizer
The Cannabis Cruise is a joint venture between Windsor River Cruises and Border City Entertainment
A cannabis-themed event organized by Windsor River Cruises and Border City Entertainment is in jeopardy over concerns that patrons and the event's organizers will be in violation of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.
Jessilin Deschamps, Windsor Rivers Cruises promotional manager and one of the Cannabis Cruise's organizers, said Tuesday that organizers are considering pulling the plug.
"I can say that at this point, we are considering cancelling the event due to problems with the health unit," said Deschamps.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, explained that Cannabis Cruise organizers were informed "a few days ago" the event could potentially violate the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, should passengers smoke or vape tobacco or cannabis while on board.
"The Smoke-Free Ontario Act clearly states that no person shall consume cannabis in any manner in a vehicle or a boat while the person is either driving or the person is a passenger in that boat," said Ahmed. "It doesn't matter if the boat is in motion or not."
For her part, Deschamps said the issue isn't as "black and white" as the health unit is making it seem.
"I do think that they are enforcing rules that are not completely clear and enforcing it in a way that is damaging to our business and our events," she said.
In a Tuesday media release, the WECHU outlined that the Smoke-Free Ontario Act applies to both enclosed spaces, as well as open spaces like patios.
"Individuals should be informed that the upcoming cannabis cruise falls under sections of the [Smoke-Free Ontario Act], pertaining to the smoking or vaping of cannabis in an enclosed workplace, enclosed public place, as well as on a bar or restaurant patio," reads an excerpt from the WECHU's media release.
Act violations carry a minimum fine of $305 for the first offence, and are applicable to both patrons and event organizers.
"My understanding is it's $305 times the number of people who are found in violation," said Ahmed, acknowledging he would need to confirm the exact figure with the health unit's tobacco enforcement officers.
"They can be charged individually and in addition … the event organizers, if they haven't made an effort to enforce the legislation, they can be charged as well."
Deschamps said the health unit hasn't provided an exact figure regarding the cost of a potential Act violation, but said "it could be a large enough fine to end the business potentially."
Windsor River Cruises has been in operation for approximately 10 years. The company allows passengers to consume tobacco on the boat's smoking section.
"That hasn't been an issue up until now, not to my knowledge," said Deschamps. "We've had so many cruises this season alone and nobody ever showed up even once to make a stink about it. Until now, nobody has pushed this hard."
She added she feels there is a "certain level of bias" associated with the Cannabis Cruise precisely because it's event that promotes the consumption of cannabis.
"In my opinion, because it's a cannabis group, because we've marketed it and because we advertise for it and we're promoting a particular event, they've decided to really put their foot down this time as opposed to any other time in the past," Deschamps said.
With files from Jason Viau