Dana Larsen: 4/20 belongs at Sunset Beach

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Vancouver's annual 4/20 protest is well-suited for Sunset Beach, and we can expect it to be held there for many years to come. This year is the 25th 4/20 protest, and it falls on a Saturday, so we expect an even more massive crowd than usual.

Moving from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset Beach in 2016 was done to reduce public disruption and increase public safety. This was a good decision and the new location has been very successful.

During the last few years at the art gallery, we were shutting down Hornby, Howe, Robson, and Georgia streets. It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to control the crowd, deliver emergency services, and ensure public safety.

Sunset Beach is a popular venue for many public protests and celebrations. It has long been home to large demonstrations and festivals like the Pride Parade, the Symphony at Sunset, the Naked Bike Ride protest, many antipipeline protests, the Beer on the Beach protest, and of course, the Celebration of Light fireworks.

The annual Vancouver Sun Run and the BMO Marathon also use Sunset Beach, blocking traffic for hours and causing major disruption throughout the area.

There's a reason Sunset Beach is used for so many events, celebrations, and protests: it's an ideal location in terms of access, public safety, and traffic flow.

It's clear that the park board doesn't really care specifically about Sunset Beach, as it has said that it doesn't want 4/20 to be held in any park in the city! Same goes for any other cannabis events. Despite legalization, they want to continue the stigma and forbid cannabis users from ever gathering in public spaces.

Some commissioners claim they don't like smoking in parks, but the reality is that cannabis smoke doesn't spread far and dissipates quickly. Anyone actually concerned about public air quality would be focused on the many fireworks displays in the city, which release large amounts of toxins, particulates, and heavy metals that linger in the air for days.

It's been shown that fireworks produce fine particle pollutants 16 times greater than the worst air-quality days during fire season. Also, along with terrifying pets during the explosions, remnants from fireworks can be toxic to pets.

While NPA park commissioner Tricia Barker is saying that 4/20 is not welcome in city parks, NPA councillor Melissa DeGenova has said that 4/20 is not welcome anywhere in town, and that we should "look for a location outside of the City of Vancouver".

With this attitude, it's clear that there is no location anywhere in the city that will suit these people. They are not serious about finding a new spot for 4/20; they just want to score political points by stigmatizing our protest.

The reality is that 4/20 is a very popular community event, with many tens of thousands of people in attendance. The reality is also that Sunset Beach is the best and only place in the city for this kind of large public protest.

In a democratic society, when large number of citizens wish to peacefully gather, it is the role of elected officials to facilitate, not to forbid.

Despite efforts by local politicians to shame, stigmatize, and prohibit cannabis users from gathering, I expect we will continue to protest and celebrate at Sunset Beach on April 20 for many years to come.

Also, 4/20 will continue to be Vancouver's only protest which writes the city a cheque to cover all Park Board and civic costs, other than policing.

So come on down to Sunset Beach on April 20, where we can celebrate and protest together. Be loud and proud, and together we will end the stigmatization of cannabis users.

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Dana Larsen is one of the organizers for Vancouver's 4/20 protest. He is an author, advocate, and activist for cannabis and drug policy reform. Click here to follow Dana on Twitter.

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