Vancouver’s 4/20 event is half-baked and irrelevant

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4/20, Vancouver’s most annoying and illegal large-scale gathering, is officially pointless.

When the annual contraband event first sparked up on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery back on April 20, 1995, they had a point: marijuana was illegal, and regular people faced prosecution and criminal records for possession or public use. Since the 1990s, a majority of Canadians have agreed that smoking marijuana should not be a criminal offense in this country.

Sunset Beach 4/20 2018.
Photo by Dan Toulgoet

I am one of those Canadians. I personally don’t partake in the rolled gold (the last time I shared a joint at a party I wound up face down spread eagle on the hosts’ living room rug mumbling Doors lyrics), but I couldn’t care less if you choose to get high.

On Oct. 17, 2018, the recreational use of cannabis finally became legal in Canada. It was long overdue, but the minute that law took effect, the ridiculous collective bong hit that is the 4/20 event should have been snubbed like a burnt-out roach. You won! There is nothing more to protest! Mary Jane is mainstream! Your ganja is good to go! POT IS LEGAL.

What isn’t legal in the city of Vancouver is smoking in a public park. It’s a health and cleanliness thing. It takes a special kind of moron to manage to break the law with a legal substance, and that’s just what the 4/20 stoners are about to do en masse at 4:20 p.m. on April 20.

Since 2016, in growing numbers, potheads have invaded Sunset Beach in the West End by the many tens of thousands (last year’s estimated attendance was 40,000). They seemingly can’t be stopped, as if they’re an army of White Walkers dressed in Guatemalan ponchos. During that time, they have reportedly left taxpayers choking on a bill for more than $583,000, according to a memo from Vancouver city staff to council.

A huge part of those costs are for policing, but 4/20 organizers say they shouldn’t have to pay for the cops, because they are a “protest.”

“The idea that you can’t hold a protest in Vancouver unless you give a huge amount of money to the police kind of goes against the idea of a democracy,” organizer Dana Larsen recently told Global News.

What a pile of bullshit.

Since when do protests fight for something that is legalized? Since when do protests have the upwards of 500 vendor tents being sold at either $500 or $750 a pop?

We need to clear the air: you would have to be seriously hallucinating to call this event anything but a major city festival. And here’s the reefer madness: it’s a festival that organizers have never had permission to hold — anywhere. They just do it.

Sunset Beach was infamously closed for two and a half months after last year’s doobie debacle and, yet, the 100 per cent legal Vancouver Folk Festival brings in an average of 60,000 people to Jericho Beach Park every summer. You can often catch the scent of blunts on the breeze despite it being a non-smoking festival, and it’s gone like a circus in the night. Show up three days later and you’d never know it had been there.

How body-stoned do you have to be to be physically unable to reach down, pick up your empty Doritos bag and throw it in a garbage can?

Some proponents of 4/20 have cited the fact that Hastings Park hosts a craft beer festival each year, and so that means that there should also be room in this city for a sanctioned marijuana smoke-in, maybe even at the PNE.

And while a 4/20 Festival at the PNE would probably put the sale of mini doughnuts through the stratosphere, there’s still that burning problem: smoking is just as illegal in Hastings Park as it is on Sunset Beach (the Hastings Park/PNE Board voted against the relocation). How about Mitchell Island?

It’s time for 4/20 and its supporters to take a harsh toke of reality: you’ve smoked yourself out of Vancouver! Your event is now not just annoying, unwanted, expensive and illegal — it is irrelevant.