It is probably safe to say everybody has heard of 420—the day of the year considered by cannabis culture as an occasion for lighting up at sanctioned events around the world.
Well, think bigger… way bigger. On October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis became legal across Canada, and now there are not only 420 events but also lift expos, hemp fests, and cannabis conferences. In fact, a whole industry has surfaced in the events world. The question is, how will this change our industry, what are the laws around consumption and sales, and what can we do to be prepared? First things first, let’s look at what we already know.
Cannabis is legal in Alberta, but…
• Only if you’re 18 or older
• Only from licensed stores or online at alberta.cannabis.org
• 30 grams is the most you can buy or carry at a time
• You can’t smoke (or vape) in some public places—know your local laws
• Only 4 plants can be grown per household
• Driving high is illegal
• It can’t be within reach of anyone in a vehicle
• Edibles are not yet legal to sell
• Kids can’t enter cannabis stores, even with an adult
So what does that mean for event planning? Well, for one thing, your plan won’t include edibles. That law likely won’t come into effect until Fall 2019. What you will need to know is if serving any form of cannabis will prevent you from serving alcohol (the two don’t mix well). Currently, retail establishments that are licensed to dispense cannabis cannot sell alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription drugs, so expect some limitations when it comes to events. Will your next market include cannabis-education events, cannabis-user events, or is that a no-go for you?
Another consideration is insurance. Will your current provider cover liability related to cannabis? ILEA Edmonton hosted an event in March 2018, Risky Business 2.0: Up in Smoke, an educational event designed to help prepare event professionals for the impending legalization. One of the expert panelists from an insurance and risk management provider strongly recommended increasing your liability coverage to at least $4 million. This is something to look into, especially if it’s a target business area you want to pursue.
Looking ahead, what could legal consumption of cannabis at private or public events look like? Perhaps designated cannabis tents, where consumption by smoking, vaping, or edibles can be done similar to the festival-favourite beer tent. Work with your venues in advance of the event to become familiar with their policy and restrictions, and discuss this with your clients. A total ban on cannabis consumption could mean looking for a different venue. Make sure that you clearly communicate to those attending if all smoking is prohibited on-site. Add extra security if you do plan on providing an area for cannabis consumption. Be aware of the signs of overdose and adverse reaction, and be prepared with an emergency plan so you can respond effectively. Limit your risk by investigating your legal liability before you venture into an event that includes cannabis—you are responsible to protect yourself and your client.
Regardless of your personal feelings towards cannabis use, the reality is that it is legal, and clients will begin to include it in their events. It could even become a whole new specialty area. Be prepared before it happens. We often want our clients to think out of the box when it comes to event themes and concepts. Now is the time to do that. It is 2019, and recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, with the legalization of edibles on the horizon. Now is the time to reflect on whether or not you want to be a part of the change.
~ Jody Paulson