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4/20 pot party plows ahead despite pushback from Vancouver Park Board

vancouver 420 green light featured - 4/20 pot party plows ahead despite pushback from Vancouver Park Board

This year’s 4/20 cannabis event could bring up to 60,000 people to Sunset Beach in Vancouver, despite being denied a permit by the Vancouver Park Board. Organizer Dana Larsen says this year’s celebration will be better organized than ever before, adding he is working hard to avoid a repeat of last year’s event during which the park was turned to mud by thousands of revellers.  (DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

VANCOUVER— This year’s 4/20 cannabis celebration at Sunset Beach is getting pushback from the Park Board, which says it has “significant concerns” about the impact tens of thousands of pot smokers will have on the West End community.

Stuart Mackinnon, chair of the Vancouver Park Board, told StarMetro the smoke from droves of cannabis consumers is an enormous issue for the dense, downtown neighbourhood.

“It’s not just the people at the event who are participating, it’s people throughout the neighbourhoods, all along the beaches,” Mackinnon said, adding the Park Board has refused to issue a permit for the event.

“We have wind gusts that come off the water and we have no idea where they will go.”

But Dana Larsen, a key organizer of 4/20 Vancouver, said his group has gone above and beyond to make sure the gathering will go smoothly, and feels singled out by the Park Board’s denial of permit.

“Certainly the Park Board is still very hostile to our event,” Larsen said.

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The Park Board voted in March of last year to ban cannabis events from Vancouver parks, saying it feared allowing such gatherings would encourage people to violate the no-smoking bylaw in parks and on beaches.

That same year, the 4/20 event went ahead anyways, and ended up costing the city nearly a quarter of a million dollars in policing expenses, cleanup and turf-replacement after thousands of revellers churned the beach’s grass field into a mud bath.

Larsen acknowledges the previous year’s 4/20 had problems, and said he was sorry for the damage it caused. But the city’s costs have been paid back, Larsen said, and this year would be different.

“I’m expecting things to go a lot smoother than last year because we’ve learned from our mistakes,” Larsen said.

And despite the dispute over permission, both 4/20 Vancouver and the Park Board said they’re working with Vancouver Police, Vancouver Coastal Health and emergency workers to make the event as safe as possible.

The event is also partnering with the Binner’s Project — a group of Vancouver waste-pickers — to help divert as much refuse as possible away from landfills, and has had the park area scanned with sonar to ensure no buried archeological artifacts or internet lines will be disturbed when an estimated 60,000 people show up to blow smoke.

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Kathryn Gibbons, a parent and member of the West End Families in Action citizens’ group, said she was disappointed 4/20 organizers hadn’t done more community consulting to find ways to celebrate that more closely aligned with the values of West End residents.

“This is not an inclusive event,” Gibbons said. “It’s not somewhere I want to bring my children.

“I would challenge 4/20 to come up with an all-inclusive, all-ages event, and recognize that this is a community. This is a neighbourhood.”

A spokesperson for the Vancouver School Board told StarMetro it has not issued any special instructions for West End children or parents for April 20, though it distributes information from its substance-use initiative to school principals around the city to help keep everyone on the same page about drug safety.

Original Article – The Star

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