As debate rages around Vancouver’s 4/20 celebrations, critics are in agreement: booking Cypress Hill is a bridge too far.
Now Vancouver Park Board commissioner John Coupar plans to bring forward an emergency motion at Monday’s board meeting looking to cancel the veteran hip-hop group’s appearance at the pro-cannabis event.
The motion directs park board staff to contact the event’s organizers and urge them to “request a cancellation” in an effort to control of the size of the event, which Coupar says has gotten out of hand.
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“The organizers are essentially thumbing their nose at everybody and saying, ‘You thought it was big before? We’re going to make it bigger, and there’s nothing you can do about it,'” he said Friday.
This year’s event, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is the first since cannabis was legalized in Canada last October, is estimated to see as many as 100,000 attendees.
The announcement that Cypress Hill would be headlining this year’s 4/20 celebrations on Sunset Beach has reignited calls for organizers to face facts and declare themselves a festival, not a protest as they often call themselves.
Organizers, including Dana Larsen — who couldn’t be reached for comment following news of Coupar’s motion — argue the event protests several “unfair” aspects of cannabis legalization, including strict laws on public smoking and possession.
But Coupar is siding with critics who say the inclusion of paid vendors and sponsors proves the celebration has outstripped its protest roots and puts 4/20 at an unfair advantage compared to other sanctioned Vancouver events.
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“What does it say to all of our other partners like Pride and Celebration of Light and Skookum that plays ball and does the right thing?” Coupar asked. “It just makes the whole civil government look foolish.”
Organizers of those events agree. They say it is unfair for 4/20 not to pay policing costs, which protests aren’t sanctioned to do, or obtain the proper permits.
“There is a difference between a protest, where you are showing up with signs and raising awareness about a political or important social justice , and having paid vendors and entertainers and a main stage. That is a festival,” Vancouver Pride Society executive director Andrea Arnott said Thursday.
According to a leaked city memo, last year’s event saw $139,699 in policing costs at the Sunset Beach event alone.
Organizers say they have repeatedly tried to obtain permits for the festival but have been denied.
Coupar acknowledged those permits have been denied because 4/20 breaks the park board’s no-smoking policy for public parks.
“It’s an un-permitted event, a commercial event,” he said. “Taxpayers are on the hook, and we have the liability, so I think we have a duty to do something about it.”
Larsen has said efforts to minimize, move or shut down the event altogether is political grandstanding on behalf of city councillors and park board commissioners.
“It seems to me that those who want us to move somewhere else, what they really want is for 4/20 to stop happening, and that’s simply not going to happen,” he said Thursday.
Cypress Hill, meanwhile, is already promoting their appearance on social media, calling on their fans to “come blaze with us” at the 4/20 event.
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