Pubdate: Tue, 21 Apr 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Nick Eagland
Page: 4


PEACEFUL GATHERING: Event at Vancouver Art Gallery attracts young and
old as plume of smoke fills the sky

It was 4:20 p.m. on April 20 and there wasn't a cloud in the sky over
Vancouver, save for the massive plume of sweet-smelling smoke hovering
above the art gallery.

The 20th annual 4/20 protest and celebration of marijuana in Vancouver
saw more than 15,000 people surround the Vancouver Art Gallery Monday
with bongs, pipes and joints in hand.

Despite there being at least 60 medicinal pot dispensaries operating
in the city, vendors freely sold pound upon pound of cookies, bud,
shatter and hash (and magic mushrooms, in a few cases). Some even
tossed free samples to passersby.

The crowd skewed young - Lower Mainland high schools likely reported a
sharp drop in attendance - as teens not yet old enough to drive turned
out in droves.

But there were plenty of adults, both in tie-dye and suits and ties,
ceremoniously sparking up together as reggae music thumped across the
gallery lawn.

Just before 4:20 p.m., a countdown began and the crowd packed their
bowls and sparked their joints, ready to fill the sky with smoke from
the plant they'd come to honour.

Police kept a watchful eye on the mellow crowd and abided requests for
selfies with them.

There were protesters against the protest: Smart Approaches to
Marijuana Canada, a marijuana policy group, showed up wearing gas
masks with anti-marijuana T-shirts for sale.

But it was "Prince of Pot," Marc Emery, who received a hero's welcome
as he spoke to the crowd. It had been five years since he'd attended
the event, after serving time in the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds.

"Is this not, like, the world's greatest marijuana event of all time?"
Dana Larsen, director of the Sensible B.C. decriminalization campaign,
said to the crowd.

Chris Bennett, pot historian and owner of the Urban Shaman, encouraged
his audience to become politically active, so that by next year they
could all celebrate with legalized weed.

In an emailed statement, the City of Vancouver said it "doesn't
endorse the activity sponsored" for 4/20 at the gallery. The event's
organizers refuse to obtain a permit, the statement said, and the city
has suggested they look at alternate locations, but because organizers
are unwilling to relocate, the city's focus has been on minimizing
safety risks and public inconvenience.

Traffic was diverted as a stretch of Georgia Street was closed in the
afternoon to accommodate the surging crowd, while Robson and Howe
streets had been closed since morning for the event.
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