Vancouver 4/20: No Sunset Beach celebration, but smaller event planned for art gallery

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The annual protest rally and market that normally draws tens of thousands of people on April 20 is cancelled again due to the pandemic

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Bummer, man.

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The organizers of the big 4/20 celebration that was held at Sunset Beach in recent years aren’t planning one again in 2022.

The annual protest rally and market that normally draws tens of thousands of marijuana enthusiasts and sellers won’t happen, the third straight cancellation due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, COVID regulations were not lifted in time for us to organize a large-scale 4/20 event that is up to our standards,” announced 4/20 Vancouver organizers on their website.

Dana Larsen said he and other organizers usually start planning in December, and there was still “too much uncertainty” around the status of COVID to get things in gear.

“It costs a lot of money to put on and it’s a huge organizational effort,” said Larsen.

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Larsen said he hopes the event will return to Sunset Beach next year, though “it’s a volatile situation in the world right now” and he wouldn’t make any assurances.

There is some good news for those seeking out a pot party in 2022.

Another group calling itself Vancouver 4/20 Market is planning to host a smaller event back at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the site of celebrations for many years before it headed to the beach.

One of the organizers, Adilynn McArdle, said the group has held small gatherings on April 20 the past few years at the gallery, and there’s been good vendor and public response about scaling it up in 2022.

McArdle said between 100 and 200 potential vendors have been in touch. As for crowd size, “it’s hard to tell coming off of COVID.”

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But McArdle stressed that the 4/20 protests need to carry on to fight for “proper legalization of cannabis.” McArdle noted the legal pot market has driven up prices for medical marijuana-users and the poor, forcing them to seek out grey and black market product.

Police continue to crack down on unlicensed vendors, McArdle said. The Blue Door, which sells inexpensive weed to the most needy of users in the Downtown Eastside, was recently shut down. And the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club was hit with a $6.5 million fine early this year after raids in 2019 and 2020, despite being the oldest compassion club in Canada.

The Vancouver 4/20 event began in 1995 with just a handful of attendees downtown, then grew over the years to draw more than 100,000 people, some years sprawling out around the art gallery. Organizers moved it to Sunset Beach several years ago to minimize traffic disruptions.

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Marijuana legalization didn’t end the celebrations, as advocates continued to push for broader acceptance of growers and users, and an end to criminalization of drug use in general. But COVID made organizing a public event on any large scale difficult the past couple of years.

Despite COVID, a few hundred people gathered last year at the beach to celebrate all things pot, but it wasn’t an organized event. Some may show up again in 2022, but Larsen noted he’ll likely drop by the art gallery gathering instead and check it out.

He and other Vancouver 4/20 organizers have no part in its planning but “they certainly have our blessing,” he said.


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