Vancouver city council voted Wednesday to look into whether they should take the organizers of the annual 4/20 pot festival to court to recover costs.
Vancouver city Coun. Melissa De Genova tabled the motion to recover policing and cleanup costs for the event, which drew an estimated 60,000 people to Sunset Beach this year.
Organizations, companies, businesses or individuals must obtain permits for large events or festivals held in a park and any public spaces in Vancouver and are responsible for any costs, related to health and public safety, the motion states.
Organizers of 4/20 didn’t obtain a permit and continue to describe the event as a protest, despite recreational use of cannabis becoming legal in Canada last year.
This year, the organizers brought in a music act for the event, which sparked concern among officials that it would draw a bigger crowd to the beach, where smoking isn’t permitted. The Vancouver park board asked organizers to cancel the Cypress Hill show, but they didn’t.
The motion asks staff to look at options for legal action against the 2019 4/20 protest and farmer’s market to recover any unpaid billed costs for resources allocated by the city or park board.
Last year, organizers said they paid about $63,000 to the city and park board for costs related to the event, but the city said the event wound up costing it more than $235,000. The park was closed for several weeks in 2018 to restore the damage done to the park from the event.
4/20 organizer Jodie Emery said every year the city asks them to pay for toilets, security, first aid, and other safety and security expenses.
“We always pay for those costs,” she said, adding they’re a non-profit that raises money from sponsors and vendors, and are “unfairly and falsely” accused of not paying.
“The only cost 4/20 Vancouver cannot afford is the extremely high policing bill. But no other event in Vancouver can afford the policing costs of their events,” she said. “Isn’t it unfair that we are forced to pay for policing when other events get taxpayer subsidies to pay for policing? We should examine the high costs of policing that are killing community events.”
-With files from Nick Eagland