Vancouver Celebrates 4/20 Day, Vendors Smiling
In what appears to be a new "high" in terms of attendance for the annual Vancouver Pot Bash, the crowd reached a record estimate of 20,000 or more as of press time.
4/20 day as it is known around the world started at a San Rafael high school in California when a group of teenagers began an after school tradition of meeting at 4:20pm to smoke Marijuana. Since then 4/20 has turned into an annual April 20th (both am and pm) "Smoke Fest" dedicated to changing laws to legalize Marijuana around the World. Smoking a joint in public is against the law in every national jurisdiction of the World but enforcement and punishment varies widely from something similar to a traffic ticket all the way to the death penalty for dealing in Saudi Arabia. The sheer number of people smoking would massively outnumber any force that the authorities could come up with to arrest and deter the event. Vancouver's main intersections on Georgia, between Hornby and Howe were closed to anything other than emergency vehicles. People with giant joints were seen walking up beside and even chatting with police officers on bikes and on foot. There may have been arrests but not for possession, dealing or use of Marijuana. Informal street dealers and the larger table operations some without a permit that I interviewed reported brisk sales although it was hard to tell if they were smiling at profits or simply because of excess sampling. The products varied widely from everyday "joints" to cookies, brownies, hash, and even a cheesecake made with the "evil weed" all using oils and crushed leaves. The venue had the feel of a large farmer's market bit it has certainly seems to have gone more mainstream as of this event. As 4:20pm approached, a countdown was started by the wife of the imprisoned, vocal pot activist, Mark Emery *1, also known as "The Prince of Pot".
A massive cloud of the smoke, reportedly visible for over a mile began to rise at precisely 4:20pm, with wife Jodie Emery joining a number of stage people throwing out joints in multiple bags of 420 each. Just prior to the free joint giveaway the MC asked for the crowd to sit down in order to avoid any possible stampede to get a free joint. For those not able to get close enough to the handouts, joints were commonly available for $5 each with one street vendor I witnessed offering a two for one special at precisely 4:20pm. Although event organizers have stated that teenagers were discouraged from participating it would be very hard to imagine how an age barrier could be enforced in such an open event.
This is a big event so it requires some big sponsorship. Aside from Marc's seed operations a few vendors and some medical Marijuana operations a recent $50,000,000 (tax free in Canada) Lottery winner named David Erb of Terrace, BC donated $125,000 to 4/20 celebrations across the country this year. $60,000 of which went to establish a national website to co-ordinate the 4/20 events. Erb stated that this is the least amount he will donate to legalize Marijuana as he prepares to announce bigger plans in the future.
There were several ambulances but there did not appear to be any serous injuries from what I could see. Perhaps, it would have been more appropriate given the massive amounts of smoke to bring in fire trucks instead. It's quite clear that upon Marc Emery's release scheduled for 2015 the Prince of Pot will once again take centre stage in the ongoing debate over legalization of Marijuana in Canada and the rest of the world.
Although this reporter does not smoke Marijuana he must admit to having felt very light headed for a few hours after the event, which is why this story came in late, after a very big meal. "The things I do for you"!
*1 Condensed from wikipedia
On May 10, 2010, Justice Minister Nicholson ruled Emery be extradited to the United States. On May 20, 2010, Emery was extradited to the United States. On May 24, he appeared in a Seattle courtroom and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana from Canada by selling seeds to people in the United States. US district court judge Ricardo Martinez sentenced Emery, stating there was no question his actions were criminal and that Emery ensured others broke the law by selling them the seeds. The court noted Emery claimed on his website to have made some $3 million a year from selling seeds from his Vancouver headquarters. Emery donated almost all of the money generated from his seed sales to marijuana policy reform efforts. Emery's claims that his arrest was political were disputed by the prosecution. Emery is currently serving the 3rd year of a 5 year prison sentence at Federal Correctional Institution, Yazoo City, Mississippi.
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