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Vancouver’s 4/20 rally cost the city more than $245,000

FILE PHOTO: A man smokes during the annual 4/20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, B.C.
FILE PHOTO: A man smokes during the annual 4/20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

This year’s unsanctioned 4/20 pot protest event in Vancouver cost the city more than $245,000.

An estimated 40,000 people flocked to Sunset Beach and the Vancouver Art Gallery for the annual rally on April 20. People started showing up before the sun came up and by late morning the whole area was packed with smokers and vendors, selling everything from edibles to creams and drinks.

READ MORE: Canada to legalize pot by July 1, 2018: report

In a news release by the city, the cost for police came to more than $170,600; for engineering services like sanitation, streets and traffic, the total was close to $26,000 and for additional services like fire and rescue, emergency management, parks and recreation, the bill came to almost $49,000.

WATCH: The Global BC helicopter captured the scene, and smoke, of Vancouver’s Sunset Beach 4/20 rally. 

Click to play video 'High above Vancouver’s Sunset Beach 4/20 rally' High above Vancouver’s Sunset Beach 4/20 rally
High above Vancouver’s Sunset Beach 4/20 rally

After the 4/20 event, the Vancouver Park Board said Sunset field would need to be closed for weeks because it was “trashed”. Crews collected between five and six thousand pounds of trash and volunteers from 4/20 stayed through the night to help clean-up the garbage left behind.

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According to the city, the costs do not include impacts on BC Ambulance Service or Vancouver Coastal Health. Police said in April first responders were called to 39 medical emergencies, with 19 people being taken to hospital for treatment. Officers also issued eight driving suspensions for the consumption of drugs, and two drivers were criminally charged with impaired driving.

Location, location, location

In March, the Vancouver Park Board voted against issuing a special event permit to the organizer of the 4/20 rally, which included a request for an exemption to the bylaw that regulates smoking in Vancouver parks.

Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr said in March many residents of the West End have expressed their opposition to the 4/20 event at Sunset Beach due to the amount of smoking and the impact it has on air quality and grassy park lands, in addition to increased noise and trash levels.

WATCH: The annual 4/20 pot celebration is underway – with thousands of supporters gathering at  Sunset Beach 

Click to play video 'Vancouver 4/20 event: Protest or unlicensed commercial festival?' Vancouver 4/20 event: Protest or unlicensed commercial festival?
Vancouver 4/20 event: Protest or unlicensed commercial festival?

The 2016 rally also 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.

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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.

Last year’s event drew 25,000 people and cost taxpayers $148,000.

The Vancouver Park Board says they will be sending a bill to the organizers of the Sunset Beach Park site for their share of the event-related expenses.

~ with files from Amy Judd