Pubdate: Mon, 21 Apr 2014
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A3
Copyright: 2014 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andrea Woo
Note: with reports from the Canadian Press and Shawn McCarthy in Ottawa


Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts on Sunday flooded the streets of
downtown Vancouver, the city that nearly 20 years ago birthed the
stoner holiday that is 4/20.

Vancouver's April 20 celebration has come a long way from its
inaugural event in 1995. Then just a small gathering of less than 200
people, the event's biggest logistical challenge was finding a long
enough extension cord to reach from Marc Emery's Cannabis Culture
headquarters (then a store called Hemp BC) to Victory Square park,
where it was held for its first few years.

It has since grown into a sizeable - and worldwide - affair, with
thousands of people spilling off Vancouver Art Gallery grounds on to
downtown streets, forcing their closings. There were more than 150
booths set up at Sunday's event, featuring everything from gluten-free
pot brownies to politicians, with Vancouver police present only to
keep the peace.

The pot-fest has also taken on a new significance in 2014, with
changing attitudes toward pot being reflected in political action
across North America. In Canada, the Conservative government is
looking at softening marijuana laws by allowing police to write
tickets for small-scale possession cases rather than laying charges.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has called for the legalization of
marijuana and his party had a booth at Vancouver's 4/20 event,
collecting signatures and distributing pins bearing Mr. Trudeau's image.

In B.C., an effort by Sensible BC to decriminalize marijuana
possession fell short of the roughly 320,000 signatures needed to
force a referendum - at least 10 per cent of registered voters in each
of the province's 85 electoral districts - but still garnered 202,000.
That makes it the province's second-most successful referendum effort
behind the 2011 campaign to scrap the Harmonized Sales Tax.

In the U.S., Colorado and Washington held their first legal 4/20
celebrations after becoming the first two states to allow recreational
marijuana use. Alaska is poised to become the third, with a vote on
the issue in August.

"It's a new vibration in the marijuana movement because we feel, in
some ways, success is on the horizon," said Dana Larsen, former
Cannabis Culture magazine editor, and now a spokesman for SensibleBC.
"There is a different atmosphere now, and people are looking forward
to actual change happening."

Mr. Larsen said Mr. Trudeau's enthusiastic support for legalization is
an encouraging sign. "That's a first. We've never had a leader of one
of the mainstream parties using the L-word like that before," he said.

Sunday's celebration was the last that Mr. Emery will spend behind
bars. Extradited from Canada in May, 2010, and currently completing a
five-year sentence in a Mississippi prison for selling cannabis seeds
to U.S. customers online, Vancouver's "Prince of Pot" is set to be
released in July.

His activist wife, Jodie Emery, said the two will be throwing their
support behind Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada.

"We're excited that this is a time of change in Canada," Ms. Emery

On April 1, new medical marijuana regulations took effect transferring
the governing of access to physicians, from Health Canada, and
restricting production to select commercial growers. Patients licenced
to grow their own marijuana - or serve as a designated grower for
someone else - argued that going through commercial growers would
inflate costs and impede access to the drug. Some physicians are also
reluctant to prescribe it.

In March, Federal Court Judge Michael Manson granted an injunction,
allowing patients currently licensed to grow their own marijuana to
continue doing so while a larger constitutional challenge is before
the courts. The federal government has said it will appeal the ruling.

On Sunday, a crowd of several hundred gathered in Parliament Hill,
openly smoking pot and calling for easing of the country's marijuana

The 4/20 moniker dates back to the pot culture of California in the
early 1970s, but it became formally attached to April 20 with the
day-long rally organized by Mr. Emery, Mr. Larsen and other Vancouver
activists in 1995.  
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