City, police, event organizers ready for 4/20 pot rally at Sunset Beach
Beach Ave along Sunset Beach will be closed to eastbound traffic for most of the day Thursday
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The stage is set for Thursday's 4/20 pot rally at Sunset Beach in Vancouver and organizers say the annual protest is here to stay despite the federal government’s intention to legalize marijuana next year.
The unpermitted event, which drew 25,000 people to the beach last year, will feature more than 300 vendor booths and live music.
Park board commissioners voted against giving 4/20 event organizers a permit for this year’s event but that hasn’t changed things on the ground, said marijuana advocate, Dana Larsen.
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Organizers have been working with park board and city staff all year to ensure the rally goes as smoothly as possible, he said.
“We negotiated with staff and they encouraged us to set up early.”
But the park board chair made it clear earlier this month that staff are not helping 4/20 event organizers – in fact, the park board is shutting down power as well as water to the concession stand and washrooms at Sunset Beach.
Larsen says his team is bringing in its own porta potties for the event.
Pot rally organizers also hired their own garbage disposal crew this year to ensure there is no repeat of last year’s messy situation, where the park board spent the morning cleaning trash from the beach.
“Our intent is to leave the beach as clean as we found it,” said Larsen.
But while Vancouver’s 4/20 rally has begun to take on a celebratory tone in recent years, Larsen says the event will continue as a protest against marijuana laws.
“Until we get the laws we want and we have a day when marijuana is legalized like we want it to be, there will be 4/20.”
Larsen argues the proposed legislation shows policymakers still discriminate against marijuana users.
“I don’t like how cannabis is still being treated so much more severely than alcohol.”
He noted that someone could be sentenced to prison for up to 14 years for selling marijuana to a minor while doing the same with alcohol usually results in a fine.
“Well, it’s a step forward,” he said.
“But its de-criminalization more than legalization.”
Another group is planning to hold a marijuana protest Thursday at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and drivers should expect traffic disruption on Robson Street between Hornby and Howe streets, according to Vancouver police.
Officers will be checking drivers for signs of alcohol and drug impairment throughout the Thursday, according to a written release.
The east bound lane on Beach Ave along Sunset Beach will be closed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday. The westbound lane will remain open for local residents.