Now that pot is almost legal, this year’s Cannabis Day is as much a celebration for Canadian stoners as it is a reminder of the battles left to fight.
The weedy alternative to the national holiday kicks off at noon on July 1 at Thornton Park, in front of Pacific Central Station.
The annual gathering dates back to 1977 in Edmonton, and it has been a staple of Vancouver’s pot-liberation scene since the early ’90s. In light of the federal legalization of cannabis, though, organizers say that events like these—which are inclusive and rooted in peaceful protest—are now more necessary than ever.
“We have a victory under our belts now, but our job is half done,” veteran pot activist David Malmo-Levine says. For decades, he has been at the helm of many cannabis farmers markets and smoke-ins. “The old and the rich are protected under the new legislation. The poor growers and dealers, and the young users, still are left out as criminals. We appreciate legalization, but we’re not stopping until all the harmless people are protected from harm.”
Jeremiah Vandermeer, CEO of Cannabis Culture, one of the event’s main sponsors, echoes the sentiment. He says both he and the activist community are ready to fight for “legalization 2.0”.
“People think real legalization is already here or is coming on October 17. That’s not the case,” he says, highlighting the official date that Bill C-45, the recently passed Cannabis Act, will come into effect across Canada.
“Most of the people at Cannabis Day will still be criminals even after legalization happens. All the people who make extracts, edibles, topicals, many of the dispensaries—these people are still being targeted in the war on cannabis.”
Event organizers have ensured that attendees—whether showing up to support the movement or just to smoke pot in the name of Canada—will enjoy the fruits of old-school civil disobedience.
“Cannabis Day is an amazing event,” Vandermeer says melodiously, like an ad jingle. “You’ll find everything you need, as well as the weed!”
With scaled-down similarities to April’s 4/20 farmers market and protest at Sunset Beach, Cannabis Day is like the homegrown little brother of the hazy smoke-in family. Instead of musical headliners imported from the U.S., the gathering pays homage to the city’s talent with a lineup of local performers and bands.
Attendees can also expect to peruse a Willy Wonka–style display of “grey market” goodies. The best of Vancouver’s weed companies are stocked to sell—and probably give away—plenty of product, from flower and extracts to tinctures, topicals, and tasty treats brimming with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol—a cannabinoid found in marijuana). If you somehow missed the BYOB (bring your own bud) memo, event organizers will toss out prerolled joints to the crowd at 4:20 p.m.
Prior to 2016, the Vancouver Art Gallery was ground zero for the city’s patriotic smoke-in. After two years of fringe-group interruptions, traffic-halting protests, and extreme police intervention (complete with handcuffs and pepper spray), organizers were forced to find a new venue for the Cannabis Day festivities. This year will be the second at Thornton Park, which, Vandermeer says, has been a blessing in disguise.
“It’s a really beautiful spot,” he says. “There is the right amount of shade and sun, and we had a good time there last year.”
Better yet, Vandermeer says he doesn’t expect much in the way of authoritarian interference. “I’m assuming there won’t be any issues with the police this year,” he says.
“We [Cannabis Culture] work very closely with the park-board staff, the people at the city who make these things happen, the police, fire safety. Everybody is onboard. Everybody knows what we’re doing.”
The Straight has confirmed that the man behind the 4/20 Love Cannon—a giant bong fashioned from weed, a blowtorch, and a leaf blower—is set to make an appearance with his crowd-pleasing contraption in tow.