Parks commissioner says Vancouver's 4/20 festival and protest should drop its free Cypress Hill performance

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One of the largest annual gatherings in Vancouver is just five days away but calls persist for organizers to cancel its main event: a free concert by the hip-hop group Cypress Hill.

This morning (April 15), Vancouver parks commissioner John Coupar told CBC News he wants the city’s unsanctioned 4/20 celebration to drop its 2019 headliner in order to keep crowds under control.

"[The show] is going to dramatically increase the size of the event,” Coupar said. “We've had considerable damage in the past, so, I think, as a park commissioner, it's my duty to say, 'Hey, this is getting out of hand’.”

Coupar plans to introduce an “emergency motion” at this evening’s parks board meeting (April 15) that will “request a cancelation” of the concert component, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Quoted there, he claimed his issue is not cannabis, but the event’s location at Sunset Beach. The beach in Vancouver’s West End is designated as a public park, and the city has a bylaw that forbids smoking in parks, Coupar noted.

Vancouver’s 4/20 event—a protest, festival, trades fair, or mix of all three, depending on who you ask—has occurred with a big puff of cannabis smoke every year for more than 20 years. In 2016, it moved from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset Beach. Since then, it has repeatedly butted heads with the city’s parks commissioners.

The parks board has refused to issue a permit for the event, and complained the large crowds have damaged the grass at Sunset Beach.

One of the event's organizers, Dana Larsen, has said they would gladly pay for a permit if the parks board would issue them one. He maintains they cover all expenses associated with the gathering, with the exception of policing costs which, in 2017, somehow added up to $170,000 for the single-day event.

Another lead organizer, Jodie Emery, can often be found on social media explaining why she believes the annual gathering is still a protest despite Canada legalizing recreational cannabis in 2018.

"4/20 is a celebration of our cannabis culture," reads an April 11 message she posted on social media. "And a protest against prohibition. And a festival showcasing our music, art, rituals, history, symbols, icons, politics & everything else that defines culture. We are a persecuted, demonized culture. That’s why it’s still a protest."

Cypress Hill—whose hits include “I Wanna Get High,” “Hits from the Bong,” “Smoke Weed,” “Dr. Greenthumb,” “K.U.S.H.,” “Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up,” and “I Love You Mary Jane”—was announced to play the festival earlier this month.

“Come blaze with us #420,” reads a message on social media the band shared on April 8.

Crowd estimates for last year's 4/20 gathering at Sunset Beach suggest more than 40,000 people visited the park throughout April 20, 2018.

Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart has taken a low-key position on this year's 4/20 event, but warned that could change after 2019.

"The way I’m looking at this 4/20 is kind of a victory lap for the folks that were long-time protesters for the legalization of marijuana," Stewart told News1130 last week. "But I think that gets old pretty fast, so I think next year we’ll be having a very different approach."

On Thursday (April 18), Cypress Hill is scheduled to become the first Latino hip-hop group to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

The Georgia Straight’s cannabis editor, Piper Courtenay, will be co-hosting an all-day live broadcast of Vancouver’s 4/20 event alongside Craig Ex of Expert Joints. Tune in to the livestream presented by Cannabis Life Network and Pot TV.