Pubdate: Fri, 22 Apr 2016
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tiffany Crawford
Page: A4


Annual Pot Celebration Leaves 'Organized Chaos'; Crowd Was 'Mellow'

The heap of garbage left behind after Wednesday's 4/20 pot event at 
Sunset Beach seemed to be the main concern for authorities, who said 
there was no major damage done and no arrests.

Vancouver's director of parks Howard Normann surveyed the beach early 
Thursday morning, calling it "organized chaos" because while vendors 
collected most of the rubbish, they left two big piles of garbage 
bags for the city to remove.

"It was pretty messy. There was also lots of debris. Our main concern 
this morning was removing the plastic stuck in the rocks before the 
tide took it back out," said Normann.

Vancouver Police Sgt. Randy Fincham, who noted that the location was 
an improvement over last year's event at the Vancouver Art Gallery, 
said no arrests were made, although the marine unit rescued one 
person from the middle of False Creek, and directed an overloaded 
dinghy back to shore.

"There was a 21-year-old man attempting to swim across the inlet to 
the other side, but at about two-thirds the way across he figured he 
wasn't going to make it. There was a police boat nearby with a 
lifeguard and they were able to pull him out of the water," Fincham 
said Thursday at a news conference in Vancouver. "Later on, there was 
a woman who decided to take her clothes off and swim out into the 
channel where the boats travel back and forth. Obviously this is a 
safety concern for us."

Gang unit members dealt with 28 incidents in the downtown core 
Wednesday, and a number of weapons were seized, said Fincham, though 
the incidents cannot be directly linked to 4/20.

He said 31 people required medical assistance, and of those, 16 were 
taken to hospital. In addition, he said there were several medical 
emergencies in the West End, where it appeared people had attended 
4/20 and needed help as a result of items they had ingested at the beach.

Last year, health officials said more than 60 people were treated in 
hospital for complaints of symptoms ranging from upset stomachs to 
acute anxiety and psychosis.

Three-quarters of them had consumed edible marijuana products.

Police estimate that 25,000 pot revellers packed the beach Wednesday 
for the annual 4/20 pot protest and celebration. Hundreds of vendors 
stretched down the beach, selling an array of cannabis products and 
other items like beach blankets, bongs and trinkets.

Fincham said the officers were focused on public safety and did not 
arrest anyone selling weed to a minor.

"There were some efforts to work with organizers and have them ID 
people who appear to be under 25 years of age, to try and limit the 
number of people who consume those products," he said.

"It's a safety concern for us to wade into a crowd of 25,000 people 
to make an arrest ... we weigh out the criminality, the risk 
involved, and the need to make those arrests and in the case of 
yesterday it wasn't feasible for officers to go into that crowd and 
necessarily focus on that. It is something we were monitoring."

Meanwhile, the parks board sent nine staff members to clean up the 
beach Thursday morning, said Normann, who estimated it would take 
most of the day. He said it would take about three loads in city 
garbage trucks to remove the debris.

"It was similar to the amount of garbage we see at the fireworks. 
There were a lot of pizza boxes and doughnut boxes, cigarette butts 
and roaches ... some broken glass. The recyclers were making a small 
fortune," he said.

He said there is some damage to the turf, which needs to be fixed, 
but none of the park buildings were damaged. He did not have an 
estimate for how much the event will cost taxpayers.

Normann said it was "a mellow crowd" and there was no major violence. 
"If they had all been drinking it would have been a very different 
outcome," he said.

The city is expected to release costs as soon as they are tallied. 
Fincham said last year's policing costs were more than $50,000 and 
this year they expect costs will be higher because they deployed 
resources to the beach and to the art gallery, where a few protesters 
were gathered despite the fact the event had moved.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom