Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Authors: Dan Fumano and Nick Eagland
Page: A3


4/20 rally organizers vow to maintain their fight to free the weed

Despite legalization on the horizon, organizers of the annual
Vancouver 4/20 cannabis rally say there's little reason to end their
battle to free the weed.

Last week, the federal government tabled long-awaited legislation to
legalize recreational cannabis, promising a "strict legal framework"
for the production, sale, distribution and possession of pot starting
July 2018.

But after decades of protesting to legalize it, B.C. cannabis
advocates argue the framework proposed will give rise to more dissent.

Neil Magnuson, a rally organizer and longtime cannabis activist,
called the legislation a "false promise" that would see U.S.-funded,
federally authorized licensed producers snuff out small, local
cannabis firms.

"All of these people are at risk right now," said Magnuson, sweeping
his hand toward roughly 700 tents pitched by vendors and advocates.
"This is a culture that's grown over the past few decades into a
beautiful community."

Magnuson said 4/20 will remain a "protestival" until cannabis users
can grow and share as much of the plant as they want.

"I really hope to see that in my lifetime," said Magnuson.

There was a "celebratory aspect" to 4/20 this year with pending
legalization, said Sensible B.C. director Dana Larsen. "But there's
still plenty to protest," he added. Larsen believes the 4/20 rally
will grow as people become more comfortable with public cannabis use
after legalization. But the legislation just tabled has restrictions
unfair to cannabis users and unjust compared to those for alcohol
users, he said.

Larsen slammed the federal government for allowing ongoing dispensary
raids and possession arrests while at the same time planning to let
people carry up to 30 grams of bud without legal repercussions.

He said when legalization is fully realized - and prohibition is ended
- - 4/20 might stop being called a protest, at which point he would
expect even more public events and perhaps even political support.

While vendors set up tables at the rally Thursday morning, the leaders
of B.C.'s three major parties met at the NEWS 1130 studio where they
debated their plans for the legislation - which promises to allow
provinces to control the production and distribution of cannabis, as
well as the age of majority for its purchase.

"We're in the middle of a provincial election," Larsen said. "If it
were any other gathering, we would see candidates and party leaders
here to speak to this crowd and seek their votes."

Jodie Emery, one of the most recognized figures at 4/20 celebrations,
obliged fans who asked to pose for selfies and chatted with police.

Emery said that while she's glad Canada is moving to be the first G20
country to federally legalize cannabis, she believes what the
government plans isn't "real" legalization.

"We deserve to be able to come out of the shadows and into the light,
but this legislation is going to keep us criminalized and
marginalized," she said. "We still have a lot to protest against as
long as people are arrested."

Enforcement of cannabis crimes affected Emery personally last month,
when she and her husband Marc were arrested in Toronto alongside three
associates and charged with offences including drug trafficking in
connection with their retail marijuana business.

Emery said she was glad her bail conditions allowed her to be in
Vancouver for a scheduled, police-approved visit at Thursday's event.
But early Friday, she was scheduled to fly to Toronto for her next
court appearance at 9 a.m.

"It's the best way to take a red-eye flight back to Toronto," Emery
said. "I'll be in court bright and early. And you know I left here on
a high note."
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