Journey Cannabis & Music Festival Cancelled by Ontario City of Vaughan

Journey Cannabis & Music Festival Cancelled by Ontario City of Vaughan
The Journey Cannabis and Music Festival — an event calling itself "Canada's first cannabis and music festival" — has been cancelled by the City of Vaughan.

Organizers for the Ontario event broke the bad news today, stating new bylaws introduced by the city have forced their three-day event to be cancelled this summer.

Journey was to be held north of Toronto at the 990-acre Boyd Conservation Park from August 23 to 25, when organizers planned to host an event that would combine music with a bring-your-own-cannabis approach. The festival was also to host booths selling cannabis paraphernalia and culture items, as well as various licensed cannabis producers who would discuss their product but not actually sell any marijuana.

And while the performers had yet to be announced, the festival has been snubbed out before it could even get off the ground.

According to a press release from the festival, Journey had a signed contract with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and Boyd Conservation Park. However, Vaughan's city council passed a new smoking bylaw (No. 074-2019) on May 14, and under this bylaw, smoking cannabis in a public space is only allowed if the cannabis is medicinal and the individual has the required medical documentation, the festival states.

"We are disappointed by the decision of Vaughan City Council to restrict recreational consumption of cannabis at a private event," said Murray Milthorpe, chief experience officer of Journey Cannabis & Music Festival, in a statement. "Journey was about combatting the illegal market and disrupting the stigma of cannabis through a three-day journey of education, celebration, and conservation."

Milthorpe added, "Policymakers in Canada should welcome all efforts by multi-stake holder groups to educate Canadians about the legal vs illegal market, the health and safety aspects of consuming cannabis, and the dangers of substance abuse. Sadly, Vaughan City Council is on the wrong side of history here."

Milthorpe claimed festival organizers were not given advance notice that any sort of new bylaw was in the works by city council, even though Journey had been working closely with the City of Vaughan while organizing the event.

"At no time during our meetings with the City of Vaughan, York Regional Police, Public Health officials and Alcohol and Gaming representatives did anyone advise us that they were installing a by-law of this nature," said Milthorpe. "We had no advance warning this bylaw was in the works. We provided senior city officials the opportunity to review our press release prior to launch as requested. We never received a response.

"Instead the city's public relations department reached out to our media partners to suggest that Journey hadn't submitted its special events permit — a process that the city was simultaneously working with us directly on to submit.  At no point did the city properly convey its intentions or communicate them to us (except through the media)."

UPDATE (7/8, 9:30 p.m. EDT): The City of Vaughan has now issued the following statement regarding the festival's cancellation:

No special event permits were applied for or issued for this event (Journey Cannabis & Music Festival) by the City of Vaughan. Smoking By-law – No. 074-2019 has been under development since 2018. This by-law introduces new regulations for smoking of tobacco, vaping and cannabis, further aligned with the provincial government's Smoke Free Ontario Act. The timing of the adoption of the by-law was based on public process and reasonable timelines, following the passage of the legalization of recreational cannabis which took place in Oct. 2018. 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.

The festival will begin issuing refunds to ticketholders next week. Journey organizers also state they are currently working to secure a new event venue for 2020 and will announce the site in the coming months.

"For Journey, the mission to fight the stigma of cannabis has just begun," the festival's press release states.

For now, the Journey "Cannabus" will be touring the country to promote the "We-ed Talks" speaker series, which aims to connect people with the information and knowledge about cannabis use. You can also visit the Journey website to add your name to list that urges policymakers "that education on the health and safety of recreational cannabis use is important for all Canadians including parents and children."