PNE shuts down talks of Hastings Park hosting future 4/20 events, citing bizarre costs

Amidst relocation talks for the annual cannabis protest, PNE directors say the smoke-friendly protest won’t happen at the East Vancouver fairground

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The PNE has pulled its name from contention as city officials push to find an alternative location for the annual 4/20 cannabis farmer’s market and smoke-in.

On Monday (March 5), the board of directors held a public meeting to discuss Hasting’s Park as a potential site for the city’s popular weed event. A reporter for the Vancouver Courier stated six residents signed up to speak, most conveying concerns about the legitimacy and impact of the 4/20 protest on the surrounding community.

Following the hearing, the PNE announced the motion had passed to reject the 2020 event via Twitter.

While the PNE has given the greenlight to rent the forum to a large cannabis conference happening in May, those organizers first had to agree to strict guidelines eliminating the presence of pot on the property. The 4/20 protest, on the other hand, saw over 40,000 attendees and 140 unregulated vendors last year and is notoriously smoke-friendly.

During the meeting, the PNE and Playland’s board chair and city councillor Lisa Dominato showed projections placing the cost of last year’s event to taxpayers at upwards of $300,000.

Organizer and advocate Dana Larsen took to Twitter to respond, calling the projection “inflated”. Line-by-line he then unpacked a series of questionable expenses.

Last year, the majority of profits made from the protests went to first responders, park cleanup, and volunteer efforts, including $63,000 that covered invoices issued by the City of Vancouver and Park Board.

Cindy Heemeryk and Dana Larsen hold up donation cheques for St. Paul's Hosptial Foundation and the Vancouver Firefighters' Snacks for Kids program.
Amanda Siebert

The board charged 4/20 organizers $32,000 for field restoration, added security, and a $10,000 public safety plan. The city’s $31,000 invoice covered emergency services, parking enforcement, and sanitation. Both were paid, said Larsen.

Dominato’s cost analysis also included expenses relating to events on the same day at the Vancouver Art Gallery—where the protest was held until 2016. This line includes $44,968 for policing efforts.

Larsen responded, stating no protest took place at the gallery on April 20, 2018, and 4/20 organizers discouraged attendees from loitering around the old location.

The items 4/20 organizers didn't cover, according to Larsen, included a $5,000 fee for a permit that was never granted, park board employee wages that aren't charged to other events, and an astronomically high policing bill. He noted that policing is a regular expenditure at a number of the city’s protests and doesn’t believe organizers should have to cover the cost.

“Partly because we don't think it's right that protests should have to pay the police, and party because the policing bill is absurdly high and impossible for any public event to pay. This is a recognized problem with Vancouver events,” said Larsen.

Less the Vancouver Art Gallery costs and the fees paid by 4/20 organizers, Dominato’s estimates for taxpayer costs land at about $176,000—of which, $140,000 is allotted to the Vancouver Police.

At last year’s protest, two people were arrested.

Now the motion has passed, the PNE board will forward an official letter to the city stating that the event will not be held at Hasting’s Park. The gesture is largely symbolic at this point considering the city has yet to explore potential locations for the 2020 event.

City councillors are set to debate a motion proposed by councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung pushing staff to work with 4/20 organizers and the public to identify a new site for the event on Wednesday (March 6).

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