4/20 was "mellow" in 2017 - but left a muddy mess at Sunset Beach
Organizers of the popular smoke-in say they'll help pay for the damage and will be back to the same spot next year
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The recent rain combined with 35,000 attendees at this year’s 4/20 event has left a popular sports field at Sunset Beach a churned-up, muddy pit that will take several weeks to repair.
“It’s a big impact to the community, to the users of this park, because there’s not a lot of greenspace downtown,” said Howard Normann, director of parks, adding the cost to repair the field will run into the thousands. “So I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed it’s out of commission.”
Normann said 4/20 organizers had said they would lay down lawn protection, but that didn’t end up happening.
Dana Larsen, a cannabis advocate, said he feels bad about the damage but event organizers plan to continue to hold the popular event at Sunset Beach, where it moved in 2016 instead of its previous location at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Event organizers will be in contact with the park board to talk about helping to pay for the field remediation work, he said.
“I think we did a good job cleaning it up,” Larsen said. “I think the event went much smoother this year than last year – except for the rain, which resulted in the field being pretty muddy.”
Other than the damage to the field, police described the event as “mellow,” with no major incidents. Vancouver Coastal Health says around 25 people sought medical attention at St. Paul’s Hospital and 86 went to first aid stations near the event, but there were no serious health concerns.
Those numbers are low compared to 2015, the last year the event happened near the Vancouver Art Gallery, when 100 people showed up at the hospital, many of them teens. The high numbers prompted a warning from Vancouver’s chief health officer to the event. saying not to sell marijuana to minors.
Normann did give 4/20 event organizers kudos for better garbage collection this year (parks board crews removed 5,000 pounds of garbage this morning, about the same amount produced by the Celebration of Light fireworks festival). But he stressed that Vancouver city bylaws prohibit smoking in parks, whether it’s cigarettes or marijuana. The seawall was also out of commission for most of the day, and some people are bothered by marijuana smoke, he added.
Larsen said 4/20 is open to holding the event at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds at Hastings Park. But he said there are few options for holding large public gathering like this in Vancouver. As for the no-smoking bylaw, he suggested the park board could give the event a one-day exemption from that rule.
“We had to move from being at the Vancouver Art Gallery for many years because it was just so crowded there, we were forced to block off traffic and it was becoming unsafe,” he said.
While the federal government is moving to legalize marijuana, Larsen said there is still a need to hold 4/20, which at its heart is a mass civil disobedience protest against cannabis prohibition. The law will likely not be passed by next year and cannabis advocates are unhappy the proposed legislation still regulates marijuana more strictly than alchohol, Larsen said.
As for its impact on the West End neighbourhood, Larsen argued that putting up with large events comes with living next to a large, popular park and the event is positive for nearby businesses and tourism in Vancouver in general.
“What we don’t see discussed very often are the huge economic benefits 4/20 brings to the local community.”
In 2016, the City of Vancouver spent $148,000 on policing and other costs. Event organizers spend around $150,000 to put on 4/20, Larsen said.