The first edition of CanFest was to take place on May 28 in Quebec. However, a spanner has been thrown in the works by the country’s health ministry who, according to event organizers, has used intimidation tactics to bully the planned venue out of hosting the event. Event organizers say that they have taken extra care to ensure that their event is being run within the letter of the law.
The very first edition of CanFest was to take place on May 28 at the Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère (CCH) in Quebec. The visit of an agent from the Social Services and Health Ministry (MSSS) at the beginning of the month, however, changed everything since his warnings about possible hefty fines caused the CCH to put an end to the CanFest contract.
The president of CanEmpire, which organizes the event, finds the MSSS way of doing things doesn’t sit well, and believes that her organization is being treated “like criminals.”
“The Quebec health ministry has spread information about our event that was not true. It mentioned […] that we were going to promote cannabis, that our event was illegal, whereas no notice of non-compliance was given because nothing was deemed illegal. It is only according to forecasts of what they believed was going to happen,” laments Awa Diagne.
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The ‘Forbidden’ Quebec Cannabis Festival
By email, the Health and Social Services Minister in Quebec confirmed that it had sent a letter to CCH in connection with CanFest. It recalls that it is “prohibited for anyone to associate with an installation… a name, a logo, a distinctive sign, a design, an image or a slogan associated with cannabis, a cannabis brand, SQDC or a cannabis producer. The same applies to association with a sporting, cultural or social event. For example, it is forbidden to organize a cannabis festival”, it is written.
Awa Diagne replies that the event was intended above all to be “educational” and included “various exhibitors, speakers, and workshops, with the aim of providing education.”
Quebec Health Ministry Practicing Intimidation
As for the Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère, Quebec, it is confirmed that the visit of an MSSS agent convinced them to withdraw from the event. “The ministry made us aware of the law governing cannabis. We realized that we risked receiving several [notices] of offense,” said its Director General, Stéphanie Huot.
“We assessed the risk, simply, and we took the time to think, and we had to settle down,” she added.
But for Ms. Diagne, “the cannabis law in Quebec is extremely broad and leaves far too much room for interpretation.”
“It’s downright intimidation, to go and threaten to hand over $500,000 fines and to mention that our event is illegal when it’s not true,” she says.
She also deplores that the Quebec Health Ministry came into contact with the Lévis Convention Center, which she and her team had approached to relocate the CanFest, in order to warn them.
“We Respected all the Rules”
Ms. Diagne struggles to understand the decision of Quebec health officials, especially since many changes have been made “in order to comply with the law.”
“All the rules were followed. We were even more careful than necessary. We cut a lot of things from the event we wanted to organize in 2019. […] We removed everything related to recreational cannabis. We cut everything that could be a problem in Quebec to keep the bare minimum.
Only the After-Party survived the CanFest and it will be held at the Center des congrès de Québec. A show with comedian Jérémy Demay, followed by musical performances by Souldia and Alaclair Ensemble is still planned.
Cannabis Law in Quebec
The Quebec health ministry cited a law saying that it is prohibited to associate a name, logo, distinctive sign, design, image, or a slogan associated with cannabis, with a sports, cultural or social facility, or a facility maintained by a health or social services institution or with a research center.
Anyone who contravenes the provisions of this law in Quebec commits an offense and is liable to a fine of $5,000 to $500,000. In the event of a repeat offense, these amounts are doubled.
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First published by Journal de Québec, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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