Should vendors, contractors, licence holders be on the hook for Vancouver 4/20 costs?

Click to play video: 'Unsanctioned 4/20 pot event sets up on Vancouver’s Beach Avenue' Unsanctioned 4/20 pot event sets up on Vancouver’s Beach Avenue
WATCH: Unsanctioned 4/20 pot event sets up on Vancouver's Beach Avenue – Apr 19, 2019

A Vancouver city councillor is suggesting the city go after vendors, contractors and city business licence holders that participate in 4/20 as a means of recouping costs generated by the event.

The idea is a part of a motion being proposed by Coun. Melissa De Genova, which would also ask city staff to look into legal action against the event organizers to recover costs.

“People have a right to protest, [but] this is no longer a protest this is a commercial festival,” said De Genova.

“The organizers are not telling us where the revenues are going, but they’re actually selling booth space on public land that they do not have permission to use right now.”

The 2018 iteration of the event cost the city more than $235,000. Organizers contributed $64,870 to the city, but refuse to cover the remainder arguing it is inappropriate for them to cover policing costs at what they insist is a protest of “fake legalization.”

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“We have a lot of vendors here that are selling a rainbow of cannabis products and other stuff, and that’s how we raise money for the event to pay for all the costs that the city demands of us for this protest,” said organizer Jeremiah Vandermeer.

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“It’s a very well done professional run event here — protest actually. The city actually kind of forces it to be more of an event because of the size of it,” Vandermeer added.

“This is a protest though. We’re here protesting bad marijuana laws. Unfortunately, laws that the Canadian government has brought in have 45 new criminal penalties.”

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READ MORE: Vancouver Pride Society tells 4/20 organizers to face facts: it’s a festival, not a protest

Vandermeer was at Sunset Beach Park Friday overseeing the setup of the event’s main stage, where pot-friendly hip hop group Cypress Hill will perform, and the placement of protective material that will cover about half of the park’s grass field.

Friday also saw a dozen organizers representing events including Vancouver Pride, Live Nation, Skookum Festival, Diner en Blanc and Italian Day pen an open letter on 4/20 arguing the cannabis event should be held to the same standards they are.

“Our events do not happen until we have met the standards set by those agencies and received formal sign-offs. In some cases obtaining approval can take years,” says the letter.

The signatories say acquiring the correct type of insurance, crafting detailed safety plans and ensuring the city has approved and has “clear and comprehensive oversight and understanding all aspects” of their events are among key requirements of a “responsible” event.

“We believe the standards we are held to should apply to every event in this city with no exceptions — safety plans, guidelines and paying for services needs to happen,” states the letter.

READ MORE: Park Board motion looks to scale back Vancouver 4/20 event by cancelling Cypress Hill

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“Calling an entertainment event or festival something other than what it is should not preclude organizers from following all the same rules.”

Vandermeer, for his part, said the event does have insurance and said despite being unable to acquire a permit from the Park Board, it works closely with the city to ensure the event is safe.

“The Park Board and the city staff are amazing. We work with them every year,” he said.

“Every element is covered by all of these guys, fire, safety, ambulance services, Vancouver Coastal Health, VPD has their own staging area behind the stage.”

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