Massive turnout at first Vancouver 4/20 event since legalization
Published Saturday, April 20, 2019 12:20PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 20, 2019 7:37PM PDT
The first 4/20 event since recreational marijuana was legalized across Canada brought tens of thousands of people to Vancouver's Sunset Beach Park for the annual smoke-in.
Sunny weather and a performance by Cypress Hill, the biggest act to headline the decades-old event, helped draw the massive crowd down to the beach. As usual, police had their hands full keeping an eye out for underage cannabis use.
Though the 300 vendors who set up shop at 4/20 were all forced to sign a contract promising not to sell to minors, some teenagers managed to score pot anyway.
One 16-year-old boy told CTV News he was able to buy marijuana at the event, but was also handed some for free.
Some attendees also over-consumed cannabis and had to be treated on-site by paramedics. It's unclear how many people ended up at St. Paul's Hospital in connection with 4/20, but in previous years dozens of people were admitted with symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Despite taking place six months after legalization, the event is still billed as a protest. Organizers argue cannabis users are still stigmatized, and claim people who spent their lives advocating for legalization have been shut out of the legal retail market.
"There's more harsh penalties, more money being spent on prohibition, less medical access. Dispensaries are closing. Everything that was illegal before is still illegal," said Jodie Emery.
Another organizer, Dana Larsen, said the inclusion of Cypress Hill, which came to Vancouver fresh off a ceremony to unveil its star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, doesn't diminish the event's status as a protest either.
"Music and protest have gone together hand in hand since the beginning of protesting," Larsen said.
The vendors paid between $500 and $1,000 for reserved space on the grass, and sold all manner of cannabis and cannabis-related merchandise, including pre-rolled joints, flower, and edibles, which are still illegal and unregulated by the government.
Organizers told CTV News money raised through sponsorships and booth rentals will be used to cover their costs and also to repay the City of Vancouver for some of the taxpayer-costs associated with the event, but once again say they will not cover any policing costs, which they characterize as excessive and unnecessary.
Last year, the city estimated the total bill to be about $245,000 and said organizers repaid $63,000.