Every year, one million visitors head to Alberta, Canada to check out the Calgary Stampede - a 10-day rodeo that bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth." While chuckwagon races and bull riding are billed as the Stampede's main events, for many, the main attraction is alcohol. The Stampede - which runs from now till July 14 - is as notorious for alcohol consumption as it is famous for bareback bronco riding. But while adult patrons can consume as much alcohol as they please, they can't have even one puff of cannabis while watching the annual event.
Prior to opening up Stampede Park to the public, organizers informed visitors that they can't bring marijuana to the rodeo, even though Canada legalized adult cannabis use last October.
The organizers softened the tone for that announcement by saying the ban was for now but not necessarily forever. They plan to study how cannabis consumption is being handled at other events in Canada, and then decide how to handle it moving forward.
“With [cannabis legalization] legislation being so new, we’re taking the opportunity to learn the impact of having cannabis use at other events,” Stampede spokesperson Jennifer Booth told Global News.
She added that getting caught with a joint won't be grounds for ejecting visitors. They'll simply be asked to cease and desist with their smoke sesh.
“If someone is found using cannabis, they’re just going to be asked politely to not use it,” Booth said.
But some think it's hypocritical to ban cannabis when alcohol is far more damaging to patrons as well as underage visitors.
“People say they’re trying to protect kids, but in my mind, seeing a guy fall down drunk and puke on himself is a more damaging image than someone consuming cannabis,” Gordon Hayes - Director of Evens for the Calgary Cannabis Club - told Global.
He added that the organizers' decision will make attending the Stampede difficult for medical marijuana patients. And that banning cannabis conflicts with the spirit of being an Albertan. "We're supposed to be the wild, wild West," Hayes lamented.
The cannabis ban is also bad for some of the event's biggest stars. Recent studies suggest that horses could benefit from medical cannabis just as much as human patients. In fact, the effectiveness of cannabis as a painkiller can lengthen a horse's life by allowing it to recover from excruciating injuries that often require euthanizing the animals if they don't respond to conventional medications.
So instead of banning cannabis consumption, the Calgary Stampede should consider supporting medical marijuana use, at least for its animal attractions. If nothing else, allowing horses and other four-legged entertainers to use cannabis could help deflect longstanding criticism that the Stampede is inhumane to animals.