Vancouver Park Board commissioner doesn’t want 4/20 event at Sunset Beach

The location of the annual 4/20 pot protest is once again up for discussion and at least one park board commissioner is hoping to see it move on from Sunset Beach.

Non-Partisan Association commissioner Tricia Barker is set to bring forward a motion at the next meeting that would see the park board ask city council to continue to look at different venues for the event “in order to move this event to a more appropriate location that will not cause disruption to West End area residents, seawall users and Vancouver Aquatic Centre patrons, with the goal of having this event relocated by 2020.”

Barker said that she has nothing against cannabis or the movement, it’s just about following the rules in place.

“It’s never had a permit to be there and it keeps on operating and especially during the campaign I found a lot of people were really upset [with] the fact that, you know, we have bylaws, we have rules and people can come in and just disregard that… For me it is a pretty simple premise, there’s no smoking in parks and we should actually go along with that.”

The annual “smoke out” has been taking place in Vancouver since 1995 and up until 2016 it had been held at Vancouver Art Gallery. As the event grew in popularity it outgrew the space and a decision was made in early 2016 to move 4/20 to Sunset Beach.

However, the park board commissioners at the time were not on board with the move.

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our grave concerns that this took place without the knowledge of the elected Board of Commissioners,” Sarah Kirby-Yung, who was board chair at the time, wrote in a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Consequently, I think it is important to clearly inform you of the position of the Vancouver Park Board, which has serious concerns regarding this illegal, unsanctioned, and unpermitted event. The Board does not support 4/20 taking place at Sunset Beach.”

In the letter, Kirby-Yung asked the mayor to direct city staff to work with organizers to identify an alternate location. Commissioners went a step further in 2017 and adopted a resolution to not approve or permit any future 4/20 and/or cannabis events on any park board property, despite staff recommending that commissioners issue a permit for the annual event.

In March 2017, city council considered a motion to work with organizers to identify another location but deferred the motion back to staff for consideration pending the legalization of cannabis.

An estimated 40,000 people attended last year’s 4/20 event at Sunset Beach. Photo Dan Toulgoet

In light of the legalization of recreational cannabis, which went into force last October, Barker would like to see council revisit the idea.