woman surrounded by smoke with a hand made of smoke covering her mouth

Hotboxed Out of a Concert

Last updated: February 2021

The third day of May — Asthma Awareness Month — I went to a concert I was really looking forward to seeing. It wasn’t an expensive show, but I did buy the tickets on January 1st. For the first five songs or so of the main act, Wintersleep, I was really enjoying myself. The fourth song was my favorite, Amerika, and I thought to myself, “They played it, I can go home now!” — except I was joking in my head.

The first hint of secondhand smoke

Then I caught it. A faint whiff of cannabis smoke, rapidly becoming more noticeable. I probably swore in my head. I leaned over to my friend and said, “Hey, someone’s smoking pot in here."

We both looked around and couldn’t figure out where this person was, but no luck. It’s apparently surprisingly easy to hide your cannabis smoking in a not-too-crowded theatre. “I’m going to get security,” I told her, despite the 100% inability to tell where to point them!

Cannabis is legal in Canada, but you can’t smoke in public — and of course, you definitely can’t smoke pot indoors. I’ll also say here that I’m in support of legalization; however, part of legalization means there are rules on where you can smoke cannabis (i.e. not in the Garrick Theatre).

I went out to the lobby and spoke to the first staff member I saw. I calmly explained what was happening, noting that I have severe asthma and I couldn’t be in the theatre with secondhand smoke. He told me to speak to security. Security quickly texted someone to monitor the door, and then she and I went so I could show her where we were seated. Immediately upon re-entering the auditorium, she said, “Oh yeah, it’s a hotbox in here.”

It's disrespectful to expose others to secondhand smoke

After I pointed out our seats, I told my friend I’d be in the lobby. At 10:12 – after the set started at 9:35 – I was resigned to having basically wasted my money on a concert I couldn’t even see and sounded distorted from the lobby! She came out of the theatre less than 10 minutes later (well, mostly – she couldn’t remember how we got in).

As we waited for our ride in the lobby, I spoke with several of the venue staff. Everyone was beyond amazing — respectful, courteous, and professional. They’d sent staff in to try to find the person or people smoking, and I told them I appreciated what they were doing. “It’s unfortunate, but I know it’s not your fault and it’s difficult to find them in there! I appreciate what you’re doing to sort this out!”

The thing is, laws need to be respected, too. While smoking cannabis in public is a $600 fine, it’s obviously unrealistic for most establishments to call the cops and easier to escort the person out of the building or off the property!

I'm thankful the staff respected my asthma

As we waited for our ride, I asked if I could get a refund for my ticket — by this time my friend had found her way out, too. They called the manager and he was also fabulous. Seriously, five stars for the Garrick in the Peg. He took our tickets and came back with $30 each for my friend and me, apologizing he was a dollar fifty short. “Hey, no worries. I really appreciate it! Good luck with the rest of the night!”

I wasn’t expecting the refund, but it goes to show if you’re calm and respectful — and legitimate — sometimes surprises do happen! I again told the manager how impressed I was with the staff, and how much I appreciated everyone’s assistance. The manager told us that this regularly happens — “Hip hop shows are the worst. We threw 8 people out the other night.”

We moved to the doorway to wait for our ride and within about 5 minutes, security was escorting a dude out the door. “Leave your beer,” the security guy said, barely motioning toward the table at the doorway, “And out you go.”

Fortunately, the guy was complacent, and I don’t think security even had a hand on him as he got escorted out — a cloud of third-hand smoke and alcohol passing by us. The door closed and the security guy said, “We got him!”

“Well, at least one!” I said, but still, all 5 of us in the doorway exchanged triumphant looks and fist pumps!

There's a reason public smoking is illegal

It still sucks that I missed half a concert because of pot smokers not respecting the rules more-so than because of asthma. But I’m not so secretly happy that dude missed a good chunk of it, too. And if you couldn’t tell, I’m really, really impressed by the venue staff. They at least made what was already an annoying situation into a story worth telling because of their respect for their customers!

Although maybe next time I’ll call ahead before I buy a ticket to see how bad the pot problem has been lately!

Have you ever been hotboxed out of a concert? I want to hear your story!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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