Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2012
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Cassidy Olivier


In an ideal world, Jacob Hunter, the organizer of the wildly popular
420 pot festival in Vancouver, wouldn't have to worry about underage
kids toking up at the annual, adult oriented bake-in.

But according to estimates, about 10 to 20 per cent of the thousands
of marijuana enthusiasts who gather in front of the Vancouver Art
Gallery every April 20 for a spliff or two are minors. And Hunter
admits he finds those numbers concerning.

The challenge is that Hunter isn't exactly sure what to do about it.
While he says the law - as well as cost and logistics - prevents him
from throwing up fencing around a public space and checking IDS, he
thinks an age limit on use at the festival could be the solution.

"Do I think that the event itself should be for adults? Maybe not,
because I don't want to discourage people from coming out and
expressing a political opinion," Hunter said. "But perhaps only having
people over a certain age using marijuana at the event? Yeah,

But Hunter admits even that presents a challenge, noting people often
bring their own stash of grass. Vendors at the festival, meantime, are
encouraged not to sell any products to minors, he said, although he
noted this isn't heavily monitored.

He added that members of the pot community self-police at the festival
and often look sternly on minors who are blowing weed. Pamphlets,
designed by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, outlining "harm
reduction" approaches to pot use were also handed out at this year's
event, which fell on a Pro-d Day for many Vancouver high schools.

Const. Lindsey Houghton of the Vancouver Police Department said the
role of the police when monitoring the festival, which this year
attracted a crowd of about 20,000, is to simply keep the peace.

There were no issues to report this year, he said. As for minors
smoking, Houghton repeated the line that the older revellers generally
help to self-police the event, often talking to the underagers and
discouraging them from blazing.

"Where we would have a conversation is if we see people who are
clearly youth who are in possession or are smoking," said Houghton.
"And that conversation would be calling the parent or the guardian."

At the end of the day, Hunter said the best solution is through
education and discussion, and not necessarily through enforcement. And
it is also about regulation, he added.

"The time to be telling teens not to be chronically using marijuana is
long before 420," he said. 
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