Mike Smyth: Time for Vancouver to just give 4/20 organizers their damn permit

Is it a protest? A festival? A combination of both? At this point it doesn't really matter. Just give them the permit.

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Whether you call it a protest, a festival, a “protestival” or just Vancouver’s biggest-ever pot party, one thing is for sure: The annual 4/20 extravaganza gets bigger every year, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

So isn’t it time to just give the city’s annual pot-a-palooza their own damn operating permit once and for all?

This year’s 4/20 — unsanctioned and unlicensed, as usual — took place Saturday at Sunset Beach Park and organizers called it a success with few problems.

Official estimates put the record-setting crowd at 60,000 at the event’s peak, although organizers figure 150,000 visited throughout the day.

vancouver 4 20 2 Mike Smyth: Time for Vancouver to just give 4/20 organizers their damn permit

The crowd lights up at 4:20 for the 4/20 celebrations at Sunset Beach, Vancouver April 20 2019. Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

Police wrote up more than 30 tickets for various infractions, but there were no arrests. Nearby St. Paul’s Hospital treated 42 people for symptoms mainly from pot edibles — typically nausea, vomiting and anxiety — but all were released. No under-age minors were treated.

Day-after photos showed the park free of trash, although some large patches of grass looked pretty beaten down.

“We were there until 2 a.m. cleaning up every bit of garbage,” said 4/20 organizer Dana Larsen. “I’d say the park will need a little remediation. We put down ground-protecting cover, but we couldn’t source enough to cover the entire area.”

City officials are still inspecting any damage at the site, so the final costs are not yet known.

One thing is clear, though: 4/20 organizers will get a bill from the city.

“The park board and the city will conduct a post-event inspection and submit to you an invoice for payment,” the city wrote in a detailed “letter of expectations” to 4/20 organizers.

4 20 Mike Smyth: Time for Vancouver to just give 4/20 organizers their damn permit

Cannabis enthusiasts light up at Sunset Beach for the annual 4/20 protest in Vancouver. Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

The letter said 4/20 will be billed for lawn damage at the park, city staffing expenses, sanitation, fire-and-rescue expenses, and the cost of deploying a large number of cops.

Larsen said organizers will pay for everything, except the policing bill.

“We can’t afford it,” he said, although city councillor Melissa De Genova scoffed at that.

“They must have made a lot of money down there,” she said, noting the dozens of vendor booths that did a brisk business.

“And they can afford to bring in a major musical act, but they can’t pay for police? That’s ridiculous.”

California hip-hop artists Cypress Hill charge up to $100,000 US per appearance, according to booking agency AAE Music, although Larsen refused to disclose the cost.

I would not count on 4/20 paying that policing bill, no matter how many invoices the city sends.

That’s why it makes more sense for the city to just give the event a permit, in return for a fair cost-sharing agreement.

“Everything is negotiable,” said Larsen, adding plans are already underway for next year’s 4/20 at the same park.

If it’s going to happen anyway, why not just give them the permit? That might be the best way to recover costs for Vancouver taxpayers.

msmyth@postmedia.com

twitter.com/MikeSmythNews

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