Organizers of Vancouver’s annual 4/20 festival were down at Sunset Beach bright and early this morning (April 20).
Jodie and Marc Emery, Jeremiah Vandermeer, Dana Larsen, and an army of volunteers were there beginning to set up tents and a stage before 5 a.m.
At the time of writing, there was still more than four hours to go before the main event at 4:20 p.m. But already photographs posted on social media showed crowds slowly building.
This year, the annual protest and celebration is moving from the Vancouver Art Gallery, where it was held for nearly 20 years, down to the north end of the Burrard Street Bridge.
When the Straight first reported on the relocation, last February, Larsen described the move as a logical step.
"I think we've outgrown the Art Gallery, by far," he said. "I wish we had moved years ago, really. It's gotten too crowded. I think it's a wonderful sign and a success of our movement that we need a bigger spot."
Despite the long-time leaders of Vancouver’s marijuana movement having embraced the move to Sunset Beach, today a smaller groups has staked out space on the south side of the Art Gallery and set up tents there as a second 4/20 event.
That protest’s lead organizer, WorldCannabis.net founder Robert Moore, told the Straight he’s chosen to avoid the Sunset Beach gathering because he wants to maintain 4/20 as a day strictly to protest laws many view as unjust.
“I’m not interested in selling cannabis. I’m interested in affecting the public, making a difference, and making a change,” Moore said. “This is no time to relax in the sun. It seems like you are preaching to the choir, down at the beach.”
Interviewed earlier this week, Jodie Emery maintained the Sunset Beach event is still a political demonstration.
“This year, more than ever, we need to rally,” she said. “The city is threatening to shut down dispensaries and the federal government is allowing arrests to continue.”
The activist and owner of Cannabis Culture said that despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledging to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, the gathering remains focused on pushing for reforms.
“The primary message is to stop marijuana arrests now, to legalize marijuana now,” Emery emphasized. “We need to allow everyone to participate safely and openly in this industry. And right now, millions of Canadians are still being criminalized.”