The organizer of the first cannabis fair in Quebec denounces a “fear campaign” by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), which forced her to cancel her event with three weeks’ notice.
The very first edition of CanFest was to take place on May 28 at the Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère (CCH). However, the visit of an MSSS agent at the beginning of the month changed everything, as his warnings about potentially hefty fines caused the CCH to end the contract tying him to CanFest.
The president of CanEmpire, which hosts the event, is intolerant of the state of affairs of the MSSS and believes that its organization is being treated “like criminals”.
“The ministry was going to tell information about our event that was not true. He named […] that we were going to promote cannabis, that our event was illegal, while no notice of non-compliance was given as nothing was considered illegal. It is only according to the predictions of what they thought would happen,” laments Awa Diagne.
‘Forbidden’ Cannabis Festival
By email, the MSSS confirmed that it had sent a letter to CCH in connection with the Can Fest. It recalls that “anyone is prohibited from associating with an installation … a name, logo, distinctive sign, design, image or slogan related to cannabis, a cannabis brand, SQDC or a cannabis producer. The same applies to the association with a sporting, cultural or social event, for example it is forbidden to organize a cannabis festival,” it reads.
Awa Diagne replies that the event was mainly “educational” and included “various exhibitors, speakers and workshops, with the aim of education”.
“We had to settle down”
As for the Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère, it is confirmed that the visit of an MSSS agent prompted them to withdraw from the event. “The ministry has made us aware of the cannabis law. We realized we were at risk of multiple [constats] crimes,” said director-general Stéphanie Huot.
“We simply assessed the risk, and we took the time to think and we had to settle in,” she added.
But for meme Diagne, “cannabis law is extremely broad and leaves far too much room for interpretation.”
“It’s downright intimidation to threaten $500,000 in fines and state that our event is illegal if it’s not true,” she says.
She also regrets that the ministry came into contact with the Lévis Convention Center, which she and her team had approached to move the CanFest, to warn them.
“All rules were respected”
mme Diagne struggles to understand health officials’ decision, especially as many changes have been made “to comply with the law”.
“All the rules were followed. We were even more careful than necessary. We have cut a lot of the event we wanted to organize in 2019. […] We’ve removed everything related to recreational cannabis. We cut everything that could be a problem to keep it to the bare minimum.
Only the afterparty survived the CanFest and 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 are still on the agenda.
What does the law on cannabis say
It is prohibited to attach to any sports, cultural or social facility, facility maintained by a health or social service, or research center any name, logo, distinctive sign, design, image or slogan associated with cannabis, a brand of cannabis, the Société québécoise du cannabis or a cannabis producer.
Anyone who violates the provisions of paragraph 1 or paragraph 2 is committing an offense and will be subject to a fine of $5,000 to $500,000. In case of repetition, these amounts are doubled.