Vancouver 4/20 rally will return to Sunset Beach later this month

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Vancouver’s annual 4/20 rally will return to Sunset Beach for 2018 and, as always, it’s expected this year’s event will be the biggest one yet.

“We’re anticipating a big event this year,” said pot advocate and 4/20 organizer Dana Larsen.

“I think every year for the last 25 years, it’s been the biggest 4/20 ever and I expect that trend to continue.”

Last year, the rally took place at Sunset Beach for the second time after being first turfed in 2016 from its former downtown location due to construction at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza. Organizers had also filed for a city permit to host the rally but were denied, and the event went on unsanctioned.

Its inaugural year at Sunset Beach saw 25,000 attendees, a number that nearly doubled in 2017 when 40,000 people were estimated to have gathered at peak hours.

Larsen said Wednesday that he had long anticipated the event would return to Sunset Beach, for lack of an alternative, but with two years at the new venue in the books, organizers have picked up a few adjustments to incorporate into this year’s rally.

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“We’re working to protect the field more. It looks like it might be a rainy day again, which is unfortunate, but we’re going to try and eliminate some of the mud challenges and leave the park as good as we can,” said Larsen, who noted organizers covered the approximately $8,000 cost of re-seeding the field last year.

Dana Larsen says organizers covered the cost of re-seeding at Sunset Beach after the park had to be closed due to damage from the 2017 4/20 rally. 

Larsen expects this year’s proactive approach to protecting the grass will cost more but means the park won’t need to close for several weeks following the event.

Organizers also did not attempt to file for a permit this year, after last year’s failed attempt.

“They’ve made it clear they’re not giving one to any sort of cannabis event so we didn’t apply,” said Larsen.

“That being said, just like the last few years, we’ve had extensive site meetings with the park board staff, park rangers, VPD, emergency paramedics, sanitation … and are doing our best to run the event in a professional and safe manner for everyone involved.”

A grid system to locate individuals in the crowd has been refined, and Larsen said organizers have spoken to police about identifying and banning any vendor that sells to minors.

According to the city, costs to manage and clean up the rally have increased each year as the event gains momentum and as marijuana use becomes more popular with mainstream audiences.

In 2015, the most recent year the event was held downtown, the total cost of policing and clean-up was $92,500. In 2016, when the event moved over to Sunset Beach, the cost was $148,000, and in 2017, costs increased to $245,379.

Larsen, however, noted that part of the policing costs for the last two years also lumped in a smaller, unrelated gathering at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He also took issue with what he said was the city’s inability to provide policing cost figures for other rallies and protests in Vancouver when city officials regularly provide numbers for the 4/20 rally.

sip@postmedia.com
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