Vancouver’s 4/20 Event Needs to be Held to a Higher Standard

Last year’s gathering was an embarrassment to responsible cannabis consumers
Joseph Keller, Web Editor

Opinion 2 - 420 Event by Keith Harris

(Keith Harris)

April 20th used to be my favorite day of the year. I looked at the yearly festival as a way of showing the community that cannabis users don’t necessarily fit the negative stereotypes that have been perpetuated for decades, and to showcase the benefits of a substance that never should have been illegal.

In recent years, however, I can’t help but think that the festival is making myself and other advocates for the green stuff look bad.

Last year’s 4/20 smoke-out only served to enforce negative stereotypes. That was the first year where the event was held at Sunset Beach, rather than the traditional location in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and attracted an estimated 25,000 attendees. One would have thought that the more ecologically sensitive location would have inspired event organisers to ramp up the cooperative cleanup efforts that had been successful in other years.

Instead, for whatever reason, after everyone had packed up and gone home, the beach was left covered in massive mounds of trash. The cleanup was left to the city, on the taxpayer’s dime.

It shouldn’t matter which event is being held or what it stands for. If you bring together 25,000 people in a community space—and more importantly, an ecosystem like Sunset Beach—you better be prepared to make sure that space looks like it did at the beginning of the day.

Considering that the old stereotype of the lazy, unclean, inconsiderate stoner still persists in the minds of many, last year’s event was not a good look for Vancouver’s cannabis community.

Despite their precarious legal position, the dispensaries of Vancouver have largely been accepted by the people of the city by adhering to responsible business practices. They train their employees extensively in carding anyone who comes through the door to ensure they are above age with the same standards one would expect in any liquor store. The best of them maintain strict quality standards for their product, utilizing high-powered microscopes to examine it for pesticides, mold, insects, or other contaminants. They do this not just to ensure that they can continue to exist, but because they—the best ones at least—care about the wellbeing of their patrons.

These same standards don’t seem to apply to the venders at the Vancouver 4/20 festival, where none of the stands ask for ID and seemingly anyone is allowed to sell products with whatever amount of quality control each individual seller chooses. This doesn’t create a good or accurate representation of Vancouver’s cannabis dispensaries.

Cannabis legalization is right around the corner in Canada. Last April 20th, the federal government announced its intention to introduce legislation to end prohibition and recently announced plans to move forward.

It’s my hope that this Vancouver tradition can grow with the country’s policy. I hope to attend a fully sanctioned 4/20 festival complete with event-organised security and cleanup crews one day. I’m picturing something very similar to Vancouver Craft Beer Week, where newly legal producers and distributors can showcase a vibrant local industry and a product that can improve lives.

In the meantime, if we’re going to continue to have the unsanctioned festival, it will be up to everyone involved to make sure that it’s one the entire city can still be proud of.


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