Manitoba extinguishes concertgoers’ plans to get high at summer music festivals

Winnipeg Folk Festival executive director Lynne Skromeda. Global News / Amber McGuckin

Recreational pot may be legal, but that doesn’t mean Manitobans are free to spark up at music festivals this summer.

Popular events like the Winnipeg Folk Festival take place in provincial parks, where the law is pretty clear – recreational smoking is a hard no, while medicinal use is permitted, but only under very specific circumstances.

Folk Fest executive director Lynne Skromeda told Global News that despite her event’s hippie reputation, nothing has changed as far as pot for this year’s event. It’s still banned, just as in previous years.

“There’s actually no changes for us around the legalization of cannabis this year because we are in a provincial park and it’s actually prevented in all provincial parks,” she said.

“So it really doesn’t make any difference to our operations this year, it’s the same way it’s always been.”

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Skromeda said the festival provides an info package with its tickets that go over the rules and responsibilities for festival attendees, which includes information about the cannabis prohibition in provincial parks.

“We have a very well-behaved and very respectful audience so they know how to behave,” she said.

“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.”

Provincial laws say smoking or vaping cannabis – medicinal or otherwise – is prohibited from all campsites in provincial parks, including inside tents, camper trailers, cabins, yurts, etc.

Privately-owned or leased vacation homes within provincial parks are a different story, however. Because they’re not considered public space, the pot ban doesn’t apply.

When it comes to resorts or lodges within provinicial parks, Manitobans are encouraged to check with the facility when booking their stay.

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RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine told Global News campers are allowed to smoke at their campsites in federal parks – but that campers, whether they’re going to a festival or otherwise, should make sure they know the laws before heading out on a trip.

“I think it’s important for the public to know this, to research it, to go online and look at,” said Courchaine.

“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.”

Courchaine said the RCMP will have a presence at festival’s like the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Dauphin’s Countryfest, but that police haven’t seen much of an increase in tickets for using cannabis in a public place.

“We want people to have fun. We want people to go to these festivals and enjoy themselves… we just also want people to be responsible.”

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