Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Vancouver Courier
Author: John Kurucz


Less than two months out from this year's rally, it appears the vast
majority of the end costs will again be passed on to taxpayers

While they still can't find consensus on a location, it does appear
all parties with a stake in the 4/20 smoke-out at Sunset Beach seem to
agree on this: organizers will have to foot little, if any, of what
could be a six-figure, post-event price tag.

Less than two months out from one of the city's largest and polarizing
public events, the Courier reached out the Vancouver Park Board, the
City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department and rally
organizers to assess where the annual April 20 gathering is at in
terms of planning, lessons learned and the mechanics involved in the
cost-recovery process.

What's known for certain at this point is that the rally won't be at
the PNE, nor will it move to the southeast corner underneath the
Cambie Street Bridge. According to event organizer Dana Larsen, it's
happening at Sunset Beach, just as it has since 2016.

And he doesn't see that changing any time soon.

"4/20 is going to continue on for the next 20 years or more; it's not
going anywhere," Larsen told the Courier in a phone interview. "I
think realistically we're going to be at Sunset Beach for the next few
years at least."

Looked at as part rally and part protest, the inaugural Sunset session
ran up a price tag of $150,000 in 2016. Last year that number rose
dramatically to $245,000: $170,600 for policing, $34,600 for the park
board and $25,000 for engineering were the highest expenditures. About
40,000 people attended.

The park board sent Larsen's group, known as the Vancouver 4/20 Event
Society, a bill for almost $67,000 last year, which covered staffing
costs, facility closures and field repairs, among others. Larsen ended
up paying about $7,000 to cover damage done to the grassy areas
surrounding the beach.

"I'm hoping the costs are very minimal this year and we don't have to
pay for much at all," he said.

In an interview Feb. 23, park board chair Stuart MacKinnon
characterized Larsen's payment last year as a "token donation." He's
not sure what kind of cost-recovery expectations the board can plan
for this year, but he's firm on his stance that 4/20 events should
never happen in city parks.

"The idea that 40,000 people get together to smoke marijuana, I don't
think there is an appropriate place for that ever," he said. "No
matter where you put it within an urban context, you're going to be
impacting people's homes, people's businesses, people's right to

City spokesperson Jag Sandhu issued the following statement to the
Courier in relation to cost-recovery expectations for the city, and by
extension, the VPD.

"As the marijuana event is unsanctioned and unpermitted, the city's
efforts are solely focused on supporting the Vancouver Police
Department and park board to ensure public safety, including traffic
management and other planning support. The city has had no indication
the 4/20 event is willing to reimburse the city for these efforts,"
the statement said.

The 2017 rally saw 18 violation tickets issued to drivers, eight
24-hour driving prohibitions and two charges laid for impaired
driving, according to VPD Const. Jason Robillard.

This year's event will include enforcement around impaired drivers and
cannabis sales to minors.

"We are committed to a zero-tolerance approach to selling to minors at
this year's event," Robillard said in an email to the Courier. "We are
encouraging booth operators to make identifying minors a priority and
to post signs in front of each booth that discourages the sale to minors."

For his part, Larsen says the 4/20 event is unfairly targeted by those
in the anti-cannabis lobby and that events where alcohol is served get
preferential treatment. Staged since 1995, Larsen argues the rally
should be given a Civic Parade Status similar to Pride and Vaisakhi,
where cost offsetting measures are granted by the city. Larsen
maintains that there's a large economic boon for the city as well, via
tourist dollars spent in hotels, restaurants and retail outlets.

"We're a part of Vancouver's culture, we are a part of the city and we
should be treated the same as other large events that take place,"
Larsen said.
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