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A legal (yet illegal) Vancouver 4/20

By: Alena Blanes

Stoner’s Christmas, 4/20, Green Day, call it what you want; Vancouver does it best.

Where else in the world can you sesh on a beach and take in spectacular mountain views with tens of thousands of people? All with the best herb on the planet, if I do say so myself.

But when the smoke clears and the sun sets on the west coast, there’s still plenty to explore in the city on April 20th. I’m here to run you through it- legally, of course.

As the oldest 4/20 rally in the world, this year’s festivities also marked the silver jubilee of the first protest back in 1995. The event quickly jumped over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and in 2016, adopted Sunset Beach as its newest hotspot. It’s the only event in the city that doesn’t dip (dab?) into taxpayer dollars or subsidies. They also have a hefty sponsor and donations list to thank. However, even with its newly-legal status, the organizers were unable to secure a permit from the city. But the show must, and did, go on.

Six months into legalization, does 4/20 in this city still possess the grandeur and purpose it once did? Well, yes. While the herb itself is legal across Canada, there are many issues still garnering public protest. For instance, The Cannabis Act enforces stigmatizing laws that penalize users. Notably, a First Nations man from Winnipeg received ten months for possessing 86 grams of the herb. Under current laws, you can not possess over 30 grams. Let’s not even start with medical users, still struggling to access cannabis at the hands of government and corporate regulations (we’ll save that for a future exposé.)

According to local news, officials say the event drew over 150,000 people this year. And despite some park and city board members getting up in smoke, the turnout grew 30% from 2018. With over 400 vendors, headliners such as Cypress Hill and a whole lotta people, the event was a joint effort between volunteers and attendees from all walks of life.

Despite the irate Karen’s of the world who seek to shut down the yearly event, we’ve yet to have any violent disruptions or arrests–unlike other Vancouver gatherings in the past. Looking at you, 2011 riots.

As the Sunset Beach hype began to dissipate, we finished off the evening with alternative sounds from Leisure Club at the Biltmore Cabaret over in Mount Pleasant. At $10 a ticket, it was the perfect ‘welcome-home’ gift to myself. Fellow Vancouver natives, Sleepy Gonzalez, kicked off the evening with an opening set. The four-piece brought a calm and atmospheric sound with their female lead, Ally, dressed in the raddest blue jumpsuit I’d ever seen.

Appropriately, the merch table had supplied snacks for concert goers, a fitting offer seeing most of us were certainly a few puffs in and keen on a good munch. Not surprisingly, the Lays and Ruffles were in high demand.

Leisure Club hit us with their newest track, Strange Times, never played on stage before. The one-hour set was a mix of laid-back, good-time hits from their self-titled first album, as well as cover songs and singles. The gig was capped with a cover of MGMT’s Time To Pretend.

Surprisingly, the band wasn’t ready for the crowd’s expected cries for an encore. But after a quick huddle offstage, they were back on for one final song.

It was a day at the beach, both outside and in. And only in this city can you get the best of both.


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