Legal cannabis is here. Summer is coming. What’s a festival to do?

Legal cannabis is here. Summer is coming. What’s a festival to do?

Toronto Craft Beer Festival goers will be able to get a buzz off more than brews this year.

For the first time, the annual summer event will cordon off a “consumption” zone — nicknamed “POTio” — for attendees to use for smoking or vaping cannabis.

They won’t be able to buy the recently legalized substance on site or be served food or alcohol in the security-monitored zone. That’s a bid to comply with regulations and also strike a balance between openness and safe use, said Guy Exley, the founder of the June event held at Ontario Place.

“We know it is going to happen anyway and we know people are going to bring their cannabis and smoke it, so we thought we would embrace it … and not just let it go wild,” he said. “It’s become the new normal.”

The country’s first summer with legalized recreational cannabis is expected to open up new possibilities for users, But the potio model won’t be replicated at many of the city’s most popular events, spaces and attractions.

Under provincial legislation, cannabis use is permitted for those 19 and older generally where smoking tobacco is allowed. Places where it is banned include playgrounds, recreational facilities, sporting fields and restaurant and bar patios.

Some Ontario municipalities have gone even further, including Markham, which has banned smoking cannabis in public places.

Legalization has triggered confusion for attractions and event organizers trying to understand whether new laws allow them to permit cannabis use and what responsibilities they have if they permit guests to use the substance.

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Lighting up will be a no-go at outdoor attractions including Canada’s Wonderland and the Toronto Zoo, which revealed it will ban smoking or vaping any substance — even tobacco — later this spring.

Wonderland said it’s keeping guests from smoking cannabis inside the 153-hectare amusement park in Vaughan because of the responsibility it has as a liquor licence holder to not serve guests intoxicated by either alcohol or cannabis.

“We won’t even permit guests having cannabis on them,” said Wonderland spokesperson Grace Peacock.

“We have a security check and bag search at the front gate, so if a guest is found with any cannabis on them they will be asked to leave it in their vehicle. If anyone is found to be consuming cannabis, they will unfortunately be escorted out of the park for that business day.”

Over at the zoo, violators will be reminded of the zoo’s smoking rules and if the problem persists, spokesperson Amanda Chambers said security can be dispatched and trespassing policies applied.

However, at least one summer Toronto event appeared to be skipping cannabis policies altogether.

Peter Toh, an executive and artistic art director involved with Afrofest, said in an email that the two-day festival in Woodbine Park that celebrates African music doesn’t have any rules around smoking or carrying cannabis on festival grounds.

“Any such policy will be impossible to enforce,” he said.

Meanwhile, some are still mulling over how to handle the substance.

A spokesperson for the Canadian National Exhibition, which runs in the final weeks of August, said in an email the event was in the process of developing a “comprehensive” plan to address cannabis, but was dedicated to ensuring “guests, especially young ones, are able to enjoy spaces free from smoking of any kind.”

The Honda Indy, hosted in July on the Ex grounds, also said it was “monitoring this topic closely” and prepared to implement any of the Exhibition grounds’ cannabis policies.

Abi Roach, the owner of the Hotbox Cafe in Kensington Market — who will partner with Exley for the beer festival’s potio — wasn’t surprised that many were still navigating how they can co-exist with cannabis.

She only recently found a way to open her café’s patio for cannabis consumption while abiding by laws.

“Figuring out how to work around regulations and bylaws is very difficult and I think people don’t understand how to do it, so a lot of groups think it is easier to do something else,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean everyone has shied away from making it work.

She has had events in Hamilton, Ottawa and Kitchener reach out for advice about how they can be cannabis-friendly and expects that will continue as people get more comfortable with legalization.

“In the future, when people see it’s not that difficult and that pigs aren’t flying and the world isn’t exploding because of cannabis, we will see a lot more of it.”

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