Pubdate: Wed, 08 Mar 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Stephanie Ip
Page: 4


An annual pot rally will keep on rolling, even after the Vancouver
park board denied organizers a special permit for the event.

"We're going to keep asking for permits and we're going to keep
getting more and more entrenched," said Dana Larsen, marijuana
advocate and member of the Vancouver 4/20 Events Society. "We didn't
get a permit this year, probably won't get one next year, but I
predict that within five years, we'll be permitted and one day, we'll
have the mayor of Vancouver down there."

The society had applied for a permit to host this year's rally at
Sunset Beach, and a staff report had suggested allowing a special
permit for this year's smoke-in. A permit would allow organizers to
obtain event insurance, and for the park board to bill organizers for
partial costs, which this year are estimated at $155,000.

The park board, however, voted down that application Monday evening,
citing concerns that granting the permit for the April 20 event would
set a precedent for other smoking events at parks and beaches.

Smoking goes against the park board's bylaws and its mandate of
promoting health. Allowing the permit for a marijuana protest that's
also widely considered a commercial event, with vendors selling
marijuana and edibles, could harm the park board's reputation, as it
could be seen as condoning the sale and consumption of an illegal
product, said a staff report.

"I'm very concerned we, as commissioners, could actually suspend our
own bylaws for one group for one event," said commissioner John
Coupar, who expressed skepticism organizers could regulate the event
properly or prevent access of marijuana by minors.

The 4/20 rallies were held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery from 1995
until last year, when the city put up fences around the plaza for
construction, forcing organizers to move to Sunset Beach - a move that
essentially "downloaded" the event to the park board, said Coupar.

Last year's rally drew an estimated 25,000 to the beach and came with
a price tag of $148,000, including policing costs of about $100,000.

Sgt. Randy Fincham wouldn't comment on the park board's decision, but
reiterated that public safety remained the Vancouver Police
Department's top priority.

"We police hundreds of events each year and do our best to facilitate
an individual's right to have their voice heard, while working to
ensure that their rights don't infringe on the use and enjoyment of
another person," said Fincham, adding more information would be
available closer to April 20.

Larsen acknowledged there were some "growing pains" in moving the
massive event to a new location, but said organizers were already
working to improve upon logistics, such as the "grid system" used to
locate and treat individuals in need of medical treatment. Efforts
were also being put toward ensuring there is no confusion this year
over when garbage is picked up.

"We learn from experience and we're going to fix a lot of those little
issues," he said.
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