A Vancouver city councillor is suggesting that one way to stop cannabis vendors from repeatedly setting up shop in Robson Square is to reopen the pedestrian area to vehicle traffic.
Councillor Melissa De Genova made her stance known earlier today during an interview with CKNW talk show host Lynda Steele, who opened the discussion about this weekend's cannabis farmer's market shutdown at Robson Square with audio from a video filmed by one of the vendors.
The video, which can be seen in the Facebook group, Vancouver 420 Farmers Markets, shows a vendor filming the area.
"It's March 3, 2018. I'm at Robson Square in Downtown Vancouver, and it is the 4/20 farmer's market today, 4/20 monthly," he says. "But there's only one booth and that's me... it's definitely not what it used to be."
The video shows two other individuals at the booth, and signs that read, "This market saves lives" and "Power to the patients".
A little while later, the video jumps to footage of what appears to be six uniformed police officers approaching the booth.
"There's illegal drug activity here, so I’m going to give you one chance to take your stuff and leave, otherwise we’re going to seize it all," says a police officer to the group of vendors.
When the vendors don't immediately pack up their things and refuse to provide police officers with identification, members of the VPD pick up the table and carry it out of the square.
De Genova says the issue of such vending lies not with what is being sold, but with the way it is being sold.
"What it really is about is that they don't have a permit—other people can't vend in Robson Square," she said, adding that on Valentine's Day, police officers sent a man who was selling flowers away from the area for not first obtaining a permit from the city.
Steele referred to the vendors as "cockroaches" and likened their repeated attempts to return to the square to a game of Whack-a-mole, while De Genova said it was the presence of such individuals that was keeping families and residents away from the area.
"More and more, I'm hearing from residents and families that they don't feel safe walking down there, because the number of activists, such as the cannabis sellers, are using it for their own means and reasons," she said. "It was supposed to be a family-friendly space."
The City of Vancouver announced its plan to create the pedestrian-only plaza in 2016. De Genova said she's been questioning whether or not the area should be permanently shut down and reopened to traffic. She cited a change to bus service in the area as another reason to reopen the busy intersection to vehicles.
"Although we can reroute [those buses], it wasn't easy at all," she said. "I'm bringing forward a motion at the next council meeting to consider opening up Robson Square once again to traffic, to transit buses, and active transportation, so cyclists as well."
De Genova said that she’d like to see a more “family-friendly” atmosphere around the square, even if it were reopened to traffic. She also said she would support one-day shutdowns of the intersection for events, granted organizers first obtain a permit from the city.
De Genova was contacted by the Straight for further comment but has not yet responded.