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Vancouver Park Board votes against issuing permit for 4/20 event at Sunset Beach Park

A huge crowd gathered at Sunset Beach for 4/20.
A huge crowd gathered at Sunset Beach for 4/20.

The Vancouver Park Board voted against issuing a special event permit to the organizer of a 4/20 rally at Sunset Beach Park on Monday night.

The board said the Vancouver 4/20 Events Society had officially notified them that they plan to return to the park this year.

A formal special event permit application had been submitted, including a request for an exemption to the bylaw that regulates smoking in Vancouver parks.

Last year’s event, which attracted a crowd of 25,000 people, was not sanctioned and special event permits were not granted, although no major violations occurred. But because of the large number of participants, the smoking bylaw was not enforced during the event.

After the 2016 rally, park board staff worked with the City of Vancouver’s legal department to explore ways it could prevent the rally from returning to Sunset Beach Park or any other park in the city and to identify a more appropriate location for the event.

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After the request from organizers to hold the event at Sunset Beach Park again, a number of city departments, Vancouver Police and and Vancouver Fire joined forces for more comprehensive planning, decision-making and operational execution of the rally.

The board said while they acknowledge the challenging aspects associated with the 4/20 celebration and protest, they also acknowledged the event will occur regardless.

“Further, with the impending federal legalization of marijuana, there is recognition that in the foreseeable future, the 420 initiative will likely shift from being a protest to a legal celebration,” the board’s report says.

Trudeau’s government is expected to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana this spring.

READ MORE: Thousands attend 4/20 rally at Sunset Beach in Vancouver

The board said the smoking bylaw exemption, if approved, would enable the organizers to seek liability insurance for the event, regulate vendors, provide an opportunity for recovery of some permit fees for the event, which is estimated to cost $155,000 this year, and potentially improve compliance with the board’s special event practices and procedures.

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At the same time, the board acknowledged creating an exception for the event may set a precedent and create a perception that smoking in Vancouver parks and beaches is acceptable.

The 4/20 pro-marijuana rally has taken place annually since 1995.

Before last year’s event at Sunset Beach Park, the event, billed as a celebration of cannabis culture, was held on the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Having outgrown that location, the organizers selected Sunset Beach Park as the venue for their event in 2016.

-With files from Jon Azpiri