Vancouver 4/20 organizer vows to defy park board ban with smoke-in at Sunset Beach

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      The park board has voted to ban Vancouver’s annual 4/20 festival from all public lands it controls, but that won’t stop the event from happening at Sunset Beach this April 20, an organizer says.

      “Not probably, definitely, it is still happening at Sunset Beach,” Dana Larsen told the Straight. “There is no question.”

      In a telephone interview, he said he had hoped that commissioners would approve a permit for the event to facilitate cooperation between organizers and authorities.

      “All the vote does is remove the park board’s ability to regulate our event,” Larsen said. “But staff, they just want to make sure that this event is safe and peaceful and goes off without any problems, and we’ll still work with them closely to make sure that happens.”

      On March 6, three NPA commissioners plus the Green’s Stuart Mackinnon voted in favour of the ban. It was opposed by Vision’s lone representative on the board plus Green board chair Michael Wiebe.

      Last year, the annual protest and celebration of all things marijuana relocated from its long-time home on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery to its new waterfront location in the city’s West End.

      NPA parks commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung told the Straight that prompted complaints from area residents. She stressed that the vote was not about any position for or against marijuana but was simply a matter of upholding city bylaws that forbid smoking in public parks.

      “Even if it were legal, we would not permit the event because we have a nonsmoking bylaw and it is not something that people want in their park,” she said.

      The Vancouver police estimate 25,000 people met at Sunset Beach during the event's climax at 4:20 p.m.
      Jodie Emery

      Larsen noted that, in fact, quite a few Vancouver residents do want 4/20 hosted at Sunset Beach. According to an estimate by the Vancouver Police Department, the event attracted a peak crowd of some 25,000 people in 2016.

      “If it was an alcohol event, they would have loved to give us a permit,” Larsen argued. “Cannabis events are safe and peaceful with no problems; alcohol events are full of problems. But they’ll license the boozers and they won’t license the tokers.”

      Kirby-Yung maintained that she remains optimistic 4/20 organizers will find a suitable home for the event that is not on park-board property.

      “The organizers have expressed interest in alternate venues and I think that is where the energy should be focused,” she said.

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