4/20 in Vancouver: Mayor vows to recover all costs from organizers
Published Tuesday, April 16, 2019 8:29AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 16, 2019 7:44PM PDT
The mayor of Vancouver says this year taxpayers will not be expected to foot most of the bill for the city's massive 4/20 event.
Kennedy Stewart vowed Tuesday to make organizers of the rally at Sunset Beach pay for any expenses incurred over the weekend.
"We'll be sending them a bill for all the costs, including policing costs, and then we reserve the right to take legal action against them in order to recover these costs," Stewart said.
In 2017, 4/20 cost taxpayers $245,000 in policing and pick up. The bill was about the same in 2018, and city officials said organizers only paid back about $63,000.
Stewart's comments came as the organizers of the event said they're refusing to cancel a scheduled performance by Cypress Hill, despite concerns about crowd size.
Members of the city's park board approved an emergency motion Monday night calling on organizers to drop the concert, which is expected to bring even more people than usual down to Sunset Beach.
Even though 4/20 is only days away, commissioner John Coupar argued the board's request is reasonable. Tens of thousands of people normally attend the unsanctioned event, and Coupar said adding a major performance to the mix is "a bridge too far."
"Hopefully they will reconsider a band of this size," Coupar told reporters after Monday's vote. "Hopefully the cost will be contained a little bit and there'll be less damage to the park."
But organizers told CTV News on Tuesday they have no plans to accommodate the last-minute request. Jodie Emery says organizers are not considering cancelling, and Saturday’s show will go on as planned.
"We are not going to cancel this," Emery said. "We think it would be disrespectful to un-invite a group that represents the cannabis culture and a racial group that’s persecuted and marginalized by unjust cannabis laws."
Emery would not say how much the group is being paid for its performance. She says the park board’s attempt to cancel the concert has instead lead to more publicity.
"If John Coupar didn’t want to bring more attention to this free concert, he shouldn’t have made such a big fuss," Emery said.
The mayor said he was concerned that organizers and the park board still weren't seeing eye-to-eye just days before the event.
"It's a bit late and I think it is a bit of panic on behalf of that parks commissioner, he's not a newbie so he knows this is coming every year," Stewart said.
The 4/20 event has become more controversial in recent years since moving from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset Beach, where it's sparked complaints from neighbours and concerns about the damage done to the grass.
On Tuesday, Shane Ekeli, who lives on Beach Avenue, facing the beach told CTV he is choosing to stay in a hotel in another part of town on Saturday night because of health concerns for his 16-month-old son.
"We won’t be safe to be in our apartment," Ekeli said. "He'd be inhaling marijuana smoke, which is very dangerous for an infant or child."
Ekeli hopes the event will not return to Sunset Beach next year.
"It’s really hard to understand why it’s here, and not in a venue that’s not around children," Ekeli added, pointing to the field at Sunset Beach. "You feel let down by the city letting this happen, and not enforcing a simple bylaw of not smoking in a park."
"If they don’t like pot smoke, you probably shouldn’t live in Vancouver," Emery said when asked about Ekeli’s concerns. "This is the cannabis capital."
Emery is expecting to see up to 100,000 people attend the event over the course of the day on Saturday.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Angela Jung