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Vancouver councillors vow to get tougher on 4/20, look to recoup costs

Last Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 1:35 pm PDT

FILE - Attendees at 4/20 at Sunset Beach in 2019. (Ashley Burr/CityNews Vancouver)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s not yet clear how much Saturday’s massive 4/20 event at Sunset Beach Park will cost the city of Vancouver, but some councillors are seeking out new tools to claw back every last penny from event organizers.

Councillor Melissa De Genova is planning to table an emergency motion this week to look at avenues to recover costs resulting from the gathering, including options for legal action.

“I think that the city does have a number of tools now that it didn’t have before given that cannabis is legal, and that includes going after organizers for full cost recovery,” says councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, who intends to support De Genova’s motion.

“I think that they had the convenience of hiding behind the protest positioning and framework prior to legalization, and now they don’t,” she adds.

Kirby-Yung tabled a motion in February aimed at finding a new, non-residential venue for the annual event in consultation with the public and 4/20 organizers.

During Saturday’s event, however, those same organizers declared loudly and often from the stage that they intend to return to the same site in the years ahead.

In recent days, a heated back-and-forth has been playing out on social media between councillor De Genova and marijuana activists like Jodie Emery. Kirby-Yung is calling for the rhetoric to be dialled back.

“I think it’s also time for a conversation about what the event is. In my opinion, it’s evolving more into a cannabis trade show, and so that will lend itself to different kinds of venues that can facilitate that,” she says.

On Twitter, 4/20 Organizer Dana Larsen questioned whether De Genova’s proposal to review options for legal action is a good use of city resources.

Despite drawing a crowd which Vancouver police say peaked at 60,000 people, there were no major incidents. St. Paul’s Hospital tweeted that its emergency room experienced a busy night after the event treating 40 patients, most of whom had consumed edibles.

Kirby-Yung notes the 4/20 event produces many more medical incidents and resident complaints than any other civic event, including the Celebration of Light.