Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Tamsyn Burgmann
Page: S1


Optimism mixed with thick clouds of pot smoke in downtown Vancouver 
last year as tens of thousands of people gathered for the annual 
"4-20" marijuana legalization rally under a massive banner featuring 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's face on a rolling paper.

But this year, the event's chief organizer, Jodie Emery, says that 
"inaction" by the newly elected federal Liberals makes the protest 
"more necessary than ever."

"Last summer, I was joking I'm going to be out of work as an activist 
because we don't have debates anymore, there's no one fighting to 
keep it illegal," said Ms. Emery, who is the wife of "Prince of Pot" 
Marc Emery. "But fast forward to today and the mood is different."

Mr. Trudeau has pledged to legalize pot and struck a task force to 
hammer out legislation, but Ms. Emery said change could be months or 
years away.

Vancouver, meanwhile, is preparing to shutter more than 100 marijuana 
dispensaries by end of month as it regulates the sale of pot.

But while Ms. Emery worries about progress, other proponents of 
legalization argue Ms. Emery and her allies are sabotaging their cause.

"They're doing themselves a disservice," said Patricia Daly, chief 
medical officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.

"They are not just protesting in favour of legalization. They are 
actually selling the product in a very unregulated way and it's 
exactly those activities that make us advocate for a strong 
regulatory approach."

Preparation was under way Tuesday on the eve of this year's event, 
which has been moved to a beach after mostly being held outside 
Vancouver's art gallery since 1995.

More than 100 people - the youngest age 15 - went to hospital last 
year complaining of symptoms ranging from upset stomachs to acute 
anxiety and psychosis, Dr. Daly said.

Sixty-three people were treated, and 75 per cent of them had consumed 
edible marijuana products, she said, noting pot in food presents the 
greatest risks.

The city issued a statement saying that the protest is unsanctioned 
and unlicensed, but it recognizes the public's right to peaceful 
assembly and lawful protest.

More than $ 92,000 was spent by the city last year managing safety 
and cleanup, including $ 52,000 on additional police officers.

Organizers agreed this year to move about two kilometres away to the 
beach, where vendors will sell exotic strains of pot, paraphernalia 
and edible marijuana products.

City staff, police, fire and rescue, and the Park Board have worked 
with organizers on a public safety plan, and volunteers will 
distribute free "4-20" guidebooks, a new addition featuring a site 
map, health advice for safe marijuana use and political messages.

Ms. Emery said that the grassroots event remains non-profit, but 
organizers have raised $100,000 this year to cover costs of fencing, 
portable toilets, first-aid booths, security staff, a stage, garbage 
bins and containers for used joints.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom