Pubdate: Sat, 20 Feb 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Stephen Quinn
Note: Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 
88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.
Page: S2


The debate that erupted this week over the relocation of the annual 
420 protest has led me to this conclusion: Please, please make 
marijuana legal as quickly as possible so these people go away.

Imagine, no need to gather by the thousands to demonstrate and demand 
their Jah-given right to get as baked as they please in public.

No controversy over licences, permits, locations or smoking on beaches.

Everyone can just stay home, order some extra pizza and scroll 
through Netflix. You may not even watch anything; just scroll.

I'm not exactly sure what it is about the annual 420 pot rally that 
rankles me so, but I do know this: As a spokesperson for the event, 
Jodie Emery isn't doing anything to mellow my rankle. Or is it that 
she's rankling my mellow? Or is it harshing? Sorry, I'm not really 
down with the potspeak.

I had a conversation with Ms. Emery earlier this week best described 
as circular - for which I was branded "a square" and referred to as 
"Daddy-O" on Twitter. (For the record, not by Ms. Emery.)

And I get it - in this age of nearly legal marijuana, reminding 
people that for now, the drug remains illegal is kind of square. I 
mean, what with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to legalize 
pot and the city permitting, ahem, medicinal pot shops, we're well on 
our way there. There is as well the understandable restraint of 
police when it comes to enforcement. Nobody wants to see a dude 
smoking a little reefer hassled by the man, let alone thrown in the slammer.

All of that has emboldened the 420 forces, and sparked a battle 
between the Park Board and City Hall over the news that this year's 
event will move from the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset 
Beach Park on English Bay.

The all-business, NPA-dominated Park Board doesn't want it there for 
a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that smoking anything 
is banned in Vancouver parks and on the city's beaches. Also, the 
event is unsanctioned and unpermitted. In fact there's no way it 
could be permitted since the core activity happens to be the 
consumption of an illegal drug. (This is strikingly similar to the 
city's logic when it came to why it couldn't regulate medicinal pot 
shops. It eventually found a way.)

City officials met with organizers to suggest a number of alternative 
locations since the Art Gallery lawn will coincidentally be out of 
commission on April 20. Sunset Beach was not among the locations 
suggested, but it's where the party is headed. No one among the 
Burning Man enthusiasts of the Vision Vancouver council majority is 
making much of a fuss.

"Going to the beach is great because we're not shutting down the 
streets any more," Ms. Emery told me in an interview.

It's true - when the rally took over the Art Gallery lawn, traffic 
was brought to a standstill through much of the downtown core.

When I asked whether that was an indication that organizers weren't 
able to control the event, Ms. Emery replied with a question: "Can 
you imagine if we weren't there to organize for those 20,000- to 
50,000 people showing up? It would be chaos."

When I suggested that it was already chaos, Ms. Emery told me it's 
because the event had outgrown the venue.

The event, as it is, is billed as a celebration and a protest. 
Cannabis Culture's website calls it a "protestival." (Who but a 
stoned person could come up with that one?)

But it's much more than that. It's also an excellent retail 
opportunity with 187 booths for rent at a cost of $300 each if booked 
in advance. (Head to Marc Emery's Cannabis Culture location to book a 
booth!) Free retail space will be available on a first come, first 
served basis the day of the event.

Jodie Emery says the charge to vendors is to pay for such things as 
security, washrooms, first aid facilities and so on.

Alcohol is strictly prohibited, because you know what that does to you.

So are generators - I can only assume because of the potentially 
harmful smoky exhaust.

For an event that can't get a permit and is run by a bunch of stoned 
people, it is organized - I'll give them that.

But ask Ms. Emery about smoking where they ought not, and she points 
to "full frontal nudity at the Pride Parade" (which there isn't) and 
"dogs running around beaches." Um, touche, I guess. Here's the thing. 
I don't care. Smoke weed or don't. Stay home, don't drive - don't 
hurt anybody and don't do anything to make other people's lives miserable.

I fear that my hope that legalization will spell the end of 420 will be dashed.

Post-legalization I see it coming back, bigger, better and higher.

And maybe even with a permit.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom