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Pride Society takes issue with unpermitted 4/20 event, says organizers don't follow the rules

Last Updated Apr 11, 2019 at 8:14 pm PDT

FILE: Booths lined up at Sunset Beach in Vancouver for 4/20 in 2018. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Whether it’s policing costs or getting permits, the Vancouver Pride Society plays by the rules when it comes to organizing its annual parade.

However, that group is taking issue with the upcoming 4/20 gathering, which is into its 25th year.

Andrea Arnot with the Vancouver Pride Society says it’s frustrating and unfair that 4/20 organizers feel the rules don’t apply to them.

“When they sell vendor space and have entertainers and a stage, and all the same pieces that Vancouver Pride Society does at our Sunset Beach festival, and then to find out this year that they have a headliner coming.”

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Earlier this week, it was announced that the 4/20 event at Sunset Beach in just more than a week will be headlined by rap group Cypress Hill.

The defense from 4/20 organizers for holding an unsanctioned event in the West End is that what they’re doing isn’t an event — it’s a protest.

Arnot, however, isn’t buying that argument.

“It just feels really unfair because, of course, police have to show up to manage the event and the taxpayers bear that cost. And it’s an unpermitted festival that’s happening.”

Arnot notes Pride was originally a protest too — but as it’s grown, it has applied for all the necessary permits.

“Our celebrations have grown so much that if we just showed up and did something, there are safety concerns and all sorts of things,” she says. “So we actually follow all the rules, jump through the hoops, get all the permits, pay all the fees to make sure that we have a safe event for the community.”

The City has expressed concerns about the upcoming 4/20 gathering, which happens to fall on a long weekend this year, and follows legalization.

B.C. solicitor general weighs in

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says it’s clear: with a band and a focus on vendor booths, 4/20 has changed from its protesting origins.

“This is an annual thing and we’ve seen it the last number of year and my expectation is, you know what, it really should change to meet the times. The fact that we now have legalization in this country.”

He believes the organization should take responsibility, rather than the taxpayers being hit with costs associated with holding the annual gathering.

“My view is the organization putting on the event should be covering the costs, it shouldn’t be the taxpayers who are covering the costs.”

Farnworth points out it’s a different landscape this year than in the past. “Things are changing and I expect the event is going to have to change with legalization.”

He adds it’s up to the city and police to decide on how to respond, and to approach him if they need more tools to do so.

Premier John Horgan echoes the belief that the 4/20 event — and other similar ones — should change with the times.

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Another Vancouver event organizer is wondering how the 4/20 event will get away with expanding its celebration without permits and without paying the full costs.

Raymond Greenwood agrees with the Pride Festival organizers, especially now that the annual event is no longer considered a protest.

Back in 1990, Greenwood began his decade-long run as chair of what was then known as the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire.

He says back then, the organization paid the city about $100,000 each year.

“At that time it was $90 per hour for a policeman, I had to pay for that, I had to pay for fire engines, I had to pay for ambulances, I had to pay for everything,” he says.

4/20 organizers pay the park board to cover some costs, but refuse to pay for policing.

-With files from Lasia Kretzel