April 20, 2019 6:16 pm
Updated: April 20, 2019 7:47 pm

A look at Canada’s first 4-20 celebrations since legalization

WATCH: Thousands of pro-pot activists attended annual 4-20 celebrations across Canada even though Cannabis is now legal. As Jeff Semple reports, festival attendees believe the fight isn't over.

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Canadians from coast to coast will be lighting up celebratory joints for 4-20 Saturday, the unofficial holiday for marijuana.

This year’s 4-20 marks the first celebration since recreational pot became legal in Canada.

READ MORE: Should vendors, contractors, licence holders be on the hook for Vancouver 4-20 costs?

The annual cannabis party takes place in many Canadian cities at precisely 4:20 p.m. on April 20. It’s traditionally been a day to celebrate the drug and also to protest for the legalization of cannabis.

Originally, 4-20 started as a protest, but this year many cannabis users will be celebrating instead, explains Wayne Matheson, owner of CannaDaze head shop in Campbellford, Ont.

Matheson was at the 4-20 celebrations in Toronto at Woodbine Park — the largest cannabis party in the city put on by the 420 Toronto group.

WATCH: Vancouver 4-20 protest controversy


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“Many people will be celebrating today,” he said, adding that many new faces may come out to the celebrations now that cannabis is legal.

“There may be more support this year, and people who may have been scared to come out before can’t get in trouble now.”

He said a lot of “consumers” will be celebrating, but business owners are still protesting.

READ MORE: Baby boomers enticed by legal cannabis market, can afford to pay more for pot

“There will be a lot of people here for the protest. I mean, we still can’t get a permit to sell, and there aren’t enough permits available. The stores that have positioned themselves waiting for legalization are still being left out,” he said.

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery told Global News that 4-20 has always been a protest against prohibition and a celebration of cannabis. But even though recreational marijuana is legal, there is still more work to do.

“April 20 is recognized worldwide by millions of people. We have people writing to us from around the world saying, ‘We’re still persecuted here, please stand up for us’ so that’s what it’s about.” she said.

“When you look at Vancouver Pride, their website says they’re a protest, a party, a time to take up space and to celebrate how far they’ve come.”

WATCH: Thousands descend on Sunset Beach for 4-20 Vancouver celebrations

Lingering post-legalization concerns are sustaining a sense of protest among 4-20 event organizers across the country.

They include concerns over the government’s decision to tax medicinal marijuana, slow progress on legislation to expedite pardons for people previously convicted of simple pot possession and the fact that provincial and municipal governments are grappling with retail sales and land use laws for growing pot.

The federal government also has yet to legalize edible marijuana products and has six more months to set rules to do so.

WATCH: Calgarians mark the first 4-20 celebration since the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Jenna Valleriani, a PhD graduate and strategic adviser for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, previously told Global News that 4-20 will still be an annual event but that it will be more of a celebration than a protest.

“The meaning is going to change a little bit. I think a lot of people can appreciate that legalization isn’t perfect. There is this kind of protest element embedded in 4-20, but I think it’s also turned into an event itself rather than a protest,” Valleriani said. “A lot of the times, it’s been protesting unjust cannabis laws and cannabis prohibition more generally. It’s also taken on its own life.”

—With files from the Canadian Press 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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