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Moving Vancouver's 4/20 rally to PNE a 'logistical nightmare'

Last Updated Mar 4, 2019 at 2:36 pm PDT

A cloud of smoke hangs over the crowd as thousands of people smoke marijuana during the 4-20 annual marijuana celebration, in Vancouver on Friday, April 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Organizers of this year's 4/20 pot rally in Vancouver will face some major obstacles if they want to move it to the PNE

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After years of toking up in the West End on April 20th, thousands of pot lovers may not be allowed to gather at Sunset Beach.

Although the annual event will take place at Sunset Beach in 2019, Vancouver City Council has been talking about a possible new location starting 2020.

But moving Vancouver’s annual 4/20 pot rally from the West End to Hastings Park would be a logistical nightmare, according to the PNE’s Laura Ballance.

The ability to move the event to that location would depend on organizers guaranteeing they can cover all costs, and they would have to compete with other events already booked that day, she says.

“We have a number of events already taking place on the site. All events at the PNE are currently non-smoking except for small, outdoor designated areas. We’re also a union site,” Ballance says. “There would not be the ability to have volunteer or event organizers not cover those staffing costs.”

RELATED: 4/20 celebrations could be banned at Sunset Beach

The PNE’s board of directors will talk logistics at Monday night’s public meeting, and is expected to address at least six reasons why the location is not a good fit for the event.

Ballance tells NEWS 1130 expenses could easily be close to $250,000.

“We would need deposits in order to ensure payment of subcontractors and suppliers, for policing, security, medical facilities, fencing, as well as things like additional washrooms,” she says.

This move wasn’t well-received the last time it was proposed two years ago, she adds.

“The PNE’s really proud of being part of a neighbourhood for the past 108 years. Each time this gets floated, it creates worry in the community and so, we need to be transparent,” she says.

RELATED: Crowd lights up for annual 4/20 rally at Sunset Beach in Vancouver

Ballance says, now that marijuana is legal, this annual gathering of pot smokers is no longer a protest.

“We have the makings of a festival. I’ve certainly worked on thousands of them in my career and I can tell you, from the smallest not-for-profit charity to the largest events that have been held in this country and everybody in between — first and foremost — they get their own insurance and secondly, they pay their costs,” she says.

Even though marijuana is legal, the PNE also employs several people in their teens with parents who don’t want them exposed to that drug.

Organizers of past rallies at Sunset Beach have been accused of failing to have adequate insurance and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for policing costs, as well as most of the clean up.

The fate of the rally is on the agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that the 4/20 event in 2019 is set to take place at Sunset Beach.