Vancouver’s 4/20 Celebration Is Over, But the Battle With the City Rages On

(inacioluc/iStock)

The main 4/20 event in Vancouver is over, but the commotion is just starting.

The Vancouver Park Board said the event—which was called 420 Vancouver, and attracted 40,000 people—caused so much damage to Sunset Beach Park that it will have to be closed for about 10 weeks for repairs.

Cannabis advocates are crying foul, claiming that any damage caused by the fest was minimal and accusing park officials of spreading so-called fake news.

But some cannabis advocates are crying foul, claiming that the damage was minimal and accusing officials of spreading so-called fake news.

Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon says that once the area is dry, workers will start repairs, which will include aeration, top-dressing, seeding, and fertilization. He said the 420 event organizers will be billed but he doesn’t yet know the amount.

In order to avoid damage, organizers spent about $30,000 for rubber matting that covered high-traffic areas—but the park board says it only provided “limited help” because it didn’t cover the entire field. Exposed areas may have been made worse by pooling water.

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Mackinnon said the damage to the area is cumulative. One of the problems, he said, is that the seeding that has taken place after the past two 4/20 events “is not taking 100%,” as Mackinnon told the Vancouver Sun. “That’s damage year after year. We don’t think that field can take much more.”

Event organizer Dana Larsen dismisses Mackinnon’s claims, saying the field was in good shape after the event. “I walked through the park the next day and saw all sorts of people enjoying it, including a man flying a kite with his son,” he told Leafly. “I talked to a lot of them. No one said anything like, ‘You wrecked our park.’ They said things looked good.”

Larsen also disputes McKinnon’s allegation of cumulative damage to the park. “I spoke to the park manager five weeks after last year’s event and he said the area looked better than ever,” he said.

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Larsen is convinced the decision to close off the park was made well before the event started and any damage could have occurred. “We use the same fencing company as the park board. The company told us park officials ordered all that fencing beforehand, and I believe it. It went up first thing in the morning after 4/20. You can’t order fencing and put it up that quickly.”

Larsen believes McKinnon’s actions are politically motivated. He notes that McKinnon voted against granting a permit for the event. “He was hoping to find damage after 4/20 to justify his opposition to us getting a permit.”

The park board is the only city agency that will not sit down with 4/20 organizers, according to Larsen. He said other departments, including police and sanitation, had talked with the planners in advance.

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Fellow cannabis activist Jodie Emery shares Larsen’s views. She posted before-and-after photos on Twitter. She said the field was “green and grassy” after last week’s event with the same mud puddles that existed before.

Emery believes 420 Vancouver is being singled out by the park board because of its focus on cannabis culture. “It’s very hard for us to continue to suffer this stigma and demonization, depicting us as reckless and trashy,” Emery told The Star.

McKinnon told the Vancouver Sun that his opposition to the event has nothing to do with what 420 organizers and participants are “selling or smoking. It’s just, as I say, a trade show is not an appropriate activity for a park.”

He says the board feels the 420 celebration shouldn’t be held in any city park and would be better fit for the convention centre or Pacific National Exhibition grounds.

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Larsen said organizers would be happy to move the event to PNE grounds, because costs would be lower, but they haven’t been able to make progress in talks with officials.

Larsen says organizers will reimburse the city for the financial costs of the festival, including sanitation, clean-up, transportation control, turf restoration, and lost revenue for the concession stands and an aquatic centre.

“I guarantee the park won’t be closed for ten weeks. That is ridiculous of them to say,” Larsen said. “They have been hostile for us for years. They have been refusing 4/20 permits since 1967. It hasn’t stopped the events from happening.”