Pubdate: Thu, 21 Apr 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Page: A4
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Brian Hutchinson


25,000 On 4/20 Seem To Think It's Already Legal

'Doobies," the dude shouted Wednesday morning, from an empty stage.
"There will be doobies. Lots of them." He paused, looked around. "Free
doobies, for anyone here."

The dude was getting bummed. There were few doobie-takers outside the
Vancouver Art Gallery, traditional home of what's become an annual
marijuana celebration. It's also known as 4/20, for the date on which
it falls.

There were bewildered tourists, mostly, and local business people and
random passers-by. A dozen police officers were on hand. They looked

The real action Wednesday was down at the beach, near English Bay,
where the city's dialed-in 4/20 promoters were staging a massive,
open-air marijuana market and rally, perhaps the largest ever seen in

About 180 vendors paid organizers $300 each for the right to set up a
booth and sell, sell, sell to the public: combustibles, edibles,
cannabis products of all kinds. And no rules. There was no event
permit, because none was required, despite an anticipated crowd of
25,000 to 50,000.

Dozens more entrepreneurs threw up booths in an adjacent parking lot,
a designated rent-free zone. Hawkers paced the grounds, selling loose
joints and cookies to anyone with cash. There was the odd sign posted,
asking vendors not to sell to minors. Based on the throng of
spaced-out high schoolers wandering the beach Wednesday, not everyone
heeded the call.

The City of Vancouver has never sanctioned the annual 4/20 event;
officials always look the other way, with taxpayers footing overtime
bills for police, firefighters and paramedics. But after a debacle
last year at the art gallery that saw car traffic snarl and 100 pot
consumers require hospital care, authorities told 4/20 organizers to
move it along.

Hence the controversial switch this year to Sunset Beach, a
postcard-perfect setting with a popular seawall and views of
snow-capped coastal mountain. And a smoking ban that - on Wednesday -
was completely ignored.

Bylaw enforcement personnel were helpless; the 4/20 crowd was too
large to handle.

Marijuana as a recreational drug is illegal in Canada, but the laws
don't really apply any more, at least not on the West Coast, where pot
can be bought almost everywhere, city-regulated stores included.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insists on calling the shops "medical
marijuana dispensaries," but that's a ruse; a quick referral and note
from any compliant naturopath are all that's required of a person
wanting pot.

Events such as 4/20 make it even easier. People can buy in bulk, and
they do.

"It 's all about making money," said a vendor named Glen, as his young
colleague inhaled a morning "dab" of concentrated THC.

Earlier Wednesday, to commemorate 4/20 festivities across Canada,
federal Health Minister Jane Philpott told the United Nations
legislation to legalize marijuana will be introduced next year. The
announcement meant nothing here.

"The government is repeating what they've already said, that it will
legalize cannabis," said Jodie Emery, a prominent figure in
Vancouver's pro-pot movement. "It's not breaking news."

No surprise either, were results of a survey released Wednesday by the
Angus Reid Institute.

"More than two-in-three Canadians (68 per cent) say marijuana should
be made legal, and roughly the same number (64 per cent) say
legalization will do more good than harm in the long run," the
institute reported.

More than 41 per cent of Canadians would like to see marijuana
"legalized, but tightly controlled by government," according to the
Angus Reid survey.

That's a pipe dream, at least in this part of Canada: When it comes 
to marijuana, Vancouver seems outside government control.

Which may be vindication for some, such as Emery, who with her husband
Marc actively encourage adults to use cannabis. Just be civil, she
says: "Don't blow smoke in people's faces."

Emery was in her element Wednesday. If she had one worry, it was the
size of the 4/20 crowd.

"This is way bigger than anything we've ever done before," she said,
surveying the scene.

Sitting at a park bench nearby was her nemesis, Sarah Kirby-Yung.
Sunset Beach is a park, and KirbyYung is the Vancouver Park Board's

What, if anything, did she like about the 4/20 event unfolding in
front of her? Nothing, Kirby-Yung replied.

"It's the board's goal to ensure it's not coming back next year, to
this or any other park," she said.

The board has its work cut out for it. The city dumped 4/20 on
Kirby-Yung and her colleagues, and there's no reason to think it won't
do the same next year. There will be doobies, like the dude said. Lots
of them.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D