Tomorrow (April 20), some 20,000 people converge on Sunset Beach for Vancouver’s annual 4/20 protest and celebration of all things marijuana.
At the same time, a smaller group is expected to gather at the Vancouver Art Gallery, where the larger festival was previously held before it announced last February that it was moving to the West End.
Robert Moore is the founder of WorldCannabis.net and the lead organizer of the event planned for the VAG. He told the Straight his aim is to offer Vancouver residents a 4/20 event that is a true protest of laws that are unjust.
“I’m not interested in selling cannabis. I’m interested in affecting the public, making a difference, and making a change,” Moore said in a telephone interview. “This is no time to relax in the sun. It seems like you are preaching to the choir, down at the beach.”
Moore maintained he is not profiting from the event, which will happen on the building's south side. He said the protest will focus on ending prohibition and reforming laws that criminalize marijuana.
“On the 29th of this month, dispensaries will be shutting down,” he said. “So we don’t want to be preaching to the choir down at the beach. That’s not what we need. We need to have the public learn about cannabis.”
Moore said he couldn’t give an estimate for how many people might attend the protest at the art gallery, but noted 30 vendors have said they plan to show up.
Last year, it’s estimated some 20,000 people attended Vancouver’s annual 4/20 festival, which was held on the north side of the Art Gallery for nearly two decades. The large crowd prompted long-time organizers such as Jodie Emery, Jeremiah Vandermeer, and Dana Larsen to seek a new location for the event and eventually settle on Sunset Beach. That move was criticized by the NPA-dominated park board but welcomed by Vision Vancouver politicians at city hall.
In a telephone interview, Larsen described people behind the Vancouver Art Gallery protest as something of a fringe group in the city’s movement for marijuana reform.
“The cannabis community in Vancouver is big and diverse,” he said. “And so along with the people who have been organizing 4/20 for many years, who have decided to move to Sunset Beach, there is a second group of people who, I think, feed off the confusion coming from us moving it.”
Larsen encouraged cannabis enthusiasts to follow the main event’s long-time organizers to Sunset Beach.
“People can do whatever they want, and cannabis events are fine,” he said. “But I feel they are really trying to attack us, saying that we are selling out by going to Sunset Beach. That kind of bothers me because we are really just trying to move the event to a bigger, better location.”
The official 4/20 event’s move to Sunset Beach has also been approved by the Vancouver Police Department.
VPD Const. Brian Montague told the Straight the force was aware of a group planning a marijuana-related event for April 20 at the Art Gallery. But he said it appears that protest is not well-organized.
Montague wouldn’t comment on operational plans but confirmed VPD officers would be on-site at both events. He said how an event is policed is generally dependent on participants.
“The police response is based on the actions of those taking part in the event,” Montague explained. “In cases where people are peaceful and the events are lawful, then we don’t have to take any action.”