Festival of cannabis and music gets quashed with new bylaws in Vaughan
Organizers of the Journey festival say ticketholders will receive full refunds within the next week
Plans for a sprawling event that blended cannabis education with a summer music festival have been snuffed out by the City of Vaughan, Ont.
Organizers of the Journey Cannabis and Music Festival say new bylaws introduced by the city have forced their three-day event at the 990-acre Boyd Conservation Park, north of Toronto, to be cancelled.
Journey, originally slated to run from Aug. 23 to 25, was supposed to combine a bring-your-own-cannabis approach with a multi-genre lineup of musicians.
The performers had yet to be announced.
The premises were also set to include a beer village, booths selling cannabis paraphernalia and culture items, and a selection of licensed producers who would discuss trends and products, but not actually sell weed.
Journey organizers say the festival signed a contract with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Boyd park, but they were blindsided when a new bylaw was passed on May 14 which allowed Vaughan to regulate smoking of tobacco and cannabis within city boundaries.
Murray Milthorpe, chief experience officer of the festival, says organizers were not given advance notice that bylaws were in the works, despite attempts to work closely with the city over a special events permit.
"Sadly, Vaughan city council is on the wrong side of history here," Milthorpe said in a statement.
"Journey intends to send an important message to politicians that cannabis is legal. Education, including how to talk to our children about substance use, should not be politicized for partisan gain. Vaughan's by-law is all about self-preservation and status quo thinking and is a stigmatizing action that hurts the legal market."
In a statement, the City of Vaughan said no special event permits were applied for or issued for the event.
The city says its smoking bylaw has been "under development since 2018" and that the timing of its implementation was based on a "public process" that followed the legalization of recreational cannabis last October.
"It should be noted that following a Special Committee of the Whole meeting on Jan. 21, Council endorsed Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua's motion to opt-out from allowing licensed retail cannabis stores to operate in Vaughan," it adds.
Other music festivals have put a stronger emphasis on cannabis following legalization last year.
Electronic music event Ever After in Kitchener, Ont. allowed concert-goers to toke up, while this year's annual 4/20 celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver united a park of cannabis vendors with a performance by hip hop act Cypress Hill.
Organizers of the Journey festival say ticketholders will receive full refunds within the next week.
They're also searching for a new venue to host the event next year.
With files from CBC News