Cele-protesting Pseudo-Legalization – 420 @ Sunset Park

May 2, 2017

IMG_0338Like all marathons, my day started too early. Brynn and I drove out of Kelowna at around six AM. We picked up a misinformed temporary passenger before dropping him back off. Hope of a smooth ride was lost as we hit the Connector to find three inches of snow growing on the road. Traffic slowed to a single lane crawl at a magnificent 30 kilometres per hour.

After Merritt, it was smooth sailing. The road was dry and traffic flowed until Abbotsford where we came to a standstill. A dump truck had caught fire and was burned to a blackened carcass. There would be a lot of burning going on throughout the day.

We were on our way to the Vancouver 420 protest/celebration that has been going on every year since 1995. While the first was held at Victory Park on West Hastings, this one was the second year at the way more picturesque Sunset Park alongside False Creek.

Approaching Vancouver, heavy clouds sat low over the city. They cleared up beautifully once we arrived at the park. We crossed the street, passing a police blockade put up to keep disruptions from moving beyond the park area. I wasn’t sure what to expect as the Vancouver Parks Board had voted against granting a special event permit, citing concerns about policing, clean-up and smoking bylaws.[1]

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There were over 400 booths set up on the park grass and along the beach. The crowd was relatively light as we perused the lanes. Variety wasn’t a strong suit for what was available. There were baked and edible products as well as flowers and pre-rolls, as well as the usual menu of head shop paraphernalia like bongs, pipes and grinders. It reminded me of walking through the markets of Puerto Vallarta; a lot of the same stuff with everyone calling over with ‘The Best’.

It was a peaceful crowd of 40,000, spanning from high school to aged hippie, covering all cultures, nationalities and creeds. That’s the funny thing about cannabis: It spans everything and everyone, bringing us together. I wandered around and imagined how such a large crowd could create a much rowdier atmosphere had the festival revolved around alcohol instead of cannabis. Then I remembered the 2011 Vancouver Playoff riots that did $4.2 million in damage.

It was difficult to view this as a protest movement, yet that’s precisely what it was. Last year we were promised legalization, but many call it Prohibition 2.0 as cannabis is still criminalized and creating criminal records for its advocates. Since the Trudeau government announced its intent to legalize adult use sales, there have been 56,000 related arrests.[2]

I see this legalization as a farce, created by ex-prohibitionists to boost the value of their stock holdings in the 50 current licensed producers. How this conflict-of-interest slipped past is beyond me.[3]

Smart laws would benefit the communities. Instead, they went the way of the lobbyist and ensured all royalties are sent to corporate heads in some major metropolis. Not much will directly benefit the community after federal and provincial filtration. That is poor policy.

At the end of the day, the lawn took the most punishment. City co-operation could have prevented that. So could a lack of rainfall but hindsight is 20/20. Go figure.

There was the usual backlash after the event. Organizer Dana Larsen wrote a letter saying,

4/20 organizers, myself included, have extensive meetings with city and park board staff, including Park Rangers, Vancouver Police, Emergency Services, Sanitation, Paramedics, Ambulances, Traffic Control, and many other departments. We develop a detailed plan to cover every single aspect of 4/20 so as to ensure community safety and proper care of the park.”[4]

This was a peaceful, multi-cultural event with very few incidents. Of course, a few slipped through the cracks. Again, what if this involved booze? The vendors made efforts to keep their products out of young hands. The organizer asked for co-operation and was denied, and a reported 66 hospital visits out of a crowd this size is not too bad.

As the grounds remained relatively damp throughout the day, there were few occasions to sit down. After a day on my feet with brochures and camera equipment in my leather satchel, I was exhausted. Brynn and I had last words with some vendors before heading back to Kelowna. The marathon ended as I got home and collapsed on the bed at five that morning.

[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/park-board-denies-420-permit-1.4012915

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/dana-larsen/trudeau-pot-possessions-56000_b_14913312.html

[3] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/questions-raised-over-marijuana-task-force-chairs-ties-to-industry/article34694710/

[4] http://www.cannabisculture.com/content/2017/04/23/keep-off-grass-dana-larsens-breaks-postmedias-coverage-420

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