Cleanup begins on Sunset Beach after massive 4-20 Vancouver celebrations

An inflatable shaped like a joint is tossed above the crowd during the annual 4-20 marijuana celebration in Vancouver on Saturday, April 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

As the smoke clears from Sunset Beach following Saturday’s 4-20 celebrations in Vancouver, organizers and city staff are taking stock of the aftermath.

The pro-cannabis event saw a peak crowd of roughly 60,000 people pack the West End park to enjoy music, vendors and weed — despite weeks of calls from city and park board staff to tone down the scale of the celebrations.

On Sunday, organizers said the event was a major success.

WATCH (April 20): Vancouver’s 4-20 event goes ahead after weeks of controversy

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s 4/20 event goes ahead after weeks of controversy'
Vancouver’s 4/20 event goes ahead after weeks of controversy

“I think it was the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, and everyone had a fantastic time,” David Malmo-Levine said.

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“We made a little noise, we smelled up the neighbourhood, we trampled some grass, but (thousands of) people had a great time and raised awareness of some of the problems with legalization.”

The event’s social media accounts posted pictures of the grass and beach Sunday morning to showcase the work of the cleanup crews that “worked all night” to clear litter and tear down the roughly 400 vendor booths and main stage.

“I think the cleanup job was top-rate, and we set a good example for other events to follow,” Malmo-Levine said as he worked to pick up the last cigarette butts in the area.

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The Vancouver Park Board said in a statement Sunday that its staff is assessing the condition of the field to determine what kind of treatment it may need and how long that may take.

Organizers said they paid thousands of dollars to cover the grass with tiles to prevent damage, but there weren’t enough of them to cover the entire ground up to the main stage. The grass the morning after showed some evidence of foot traffic.

Last year, Sunset Beach was closed for roughly two months to allow staff to repair the field, which required “major rehabilitation” following the 2018 event that saw a crowd of 40,000 at its peak.

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Malmo-Levine said he was confident that wouldn’t have to happen this year and is hopeful organizers’ efforts to preserve the space will ensure they keep holding the event on Sunset Beach for years to come.

“This is a beautiful place, and we want what happened here to be legal,” he said. “Unless somebody offers us someplace more beautiful, we’re going to stay here and keep spreading our message.”

The park board and the city have recently passed motions directing staff to find an alternate venue for 4-20 to be held.

The park board has also refused to issue a permit for the event due to not allowing smoking in city parks, despite at least one commissioner joining park board staff in recommending a permit be issued anyways.

Few concerns from first responders

Overall, the record-breaking crowd didn’t lead to any major incidents for police or paramedics.

Vancouver police said Saturday they assisted paramedics with 14 medical emergencies. Officers also issued more than 30 traffic tickets and are investigating three people for impaired driving.

On Sunday, Vancouver Coastal Health said 40 patients were treated at nearby St. Paul’s Hospital, mostly due to concerns over edibles.

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WATCH (April 16): Growing safety concerns over annual 4-20 event

Click to play video: 'Growing safety concerns over annual 4/20 event'
Growing safety concerns over annual 4/20 event

The hospital said it was prepared to deal with an influx of patients from the event after seeing a similar number the year before.

“Every year at this time, we see an influx of people who are presenting with some medical problems related to 4-20,” spokesperson Ann Gibbon said, adding that several doctors and nurses were on call throughout the day.

—With files from Erin Ubels

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