The Vancouver Park Board is set to vote tonight on whether to grant the city’s annual 4/20 cannabis culture festival its first ever permit to operate.
The annual outdoor party, which regularly attracts tens of thousands of people, moved from its usual spot at the Art Gallery to Sunset Beach in the West End last year.
But while organizers worked with the Vancouver Park Board to try to ensure public safety, no special event permit was granted and it was impossible for authorities to enforce smoking bylaws.
This year, 4/20 festival planners have submitted an application for a special event permit to the Park Board, with a smoking bylaw exemption request.
So, on Monday, the Park Board will consider two possible options.
First they will decide whether to deny permits to 4/20 events on Park Board property completely. If that fails, they will then decide whether to issue a permit for this year’s event.
The city’s 4/20 festival has taken place every year in Vancouver since 1995. This year, it will once again be located on Sunset Beach, on April 20, from 11 am to 6 pm.
A Vancouver Park Board staff report point outs that if the 4/20 event is given a permit, it could improve compliance with Park Board special event practices and procedures. Staff also remark that organizers and the City of Vancouver have tried to find an alternative location than Sunset Beach, but have not yet been successful.
“While both groups acknowledge the challenging aspects associated with the 4/20 celebration and protest, they also recognize that the event will occur regardless,” said the Park Board staff report.
“Further, with the impending federal legalization of marijuana, there is recognition that in the foreseeable future, the 4/20 initiative will likely shift from being a protest to a legal celebration.”
On the downside, the staff report acknowledges that granting a permit to the 4/20 organizers sets a precedent for events that involve smoking at parks and beaches. As well, staff said, permitting an event involving the sale and use of an illegal drug could damage the reputation of the Park Board.
But, the staff report said, granting a permit would mean organizers had to regulate vendors, and could be billed for event-related expenses, estimated at $155,000 for 2017.