Where did it all begin? When did 4/20 become a protest and celebration of cannabis in Vancouver? It goes back to 1995 when two employees of cannabis activist Marc Emery asked him if they could have a daylong cannabis celebration at Victory Park on April 20th. When they told him their idea of just sitting around all day smoking pot and listening to music, he told them they couldn’t. Regardless of what the “Prince of Pot” had said, the two girls went ahead and held a celebration with 200 attendees. The next year over 500 people attended the smoke-fest, at which point the city decided that if this were to continue, the spot would have to change. Victory Park was just not big enough to hold the amount of cannabis enthusiasts that fled the streets, and so we took to the Art Gallery and the tradition of 4/20 on the steps of the VAG was born.
Year after year people of all ages would flock to the center of Vancouver and spend the day talking to vendors, trying different strains, eating a brownie (or ten) and celebrating the cannabis plant. For many, it was something they looked forward to annually. The one day were it no longer mattered if you were Wall Street or a starving artists, you would all come together for one reason: to get high and protest that a plant is illegal. It became a joke between friends that your boss would be able to tell who was a stoner based on who booked off 4/20. You would cross your fingers and pray you didn’t have to go in and close that night, and if you did you were raking your brain for an excuse as to why you couldn’t make it to work that night. Many of the real reasons – I can’t find my keys, I can’t find my door, I don’t remember how doors work – wouldn’t fly so well in the professional world, so you were left to trying to get your hazy brain to put together something more suited to tell management.
You would think with over 10,000 people smoking weed in one spot there would be a whole lot of arrest right? Not so much. The police had a tendency to turn a blind eye to this smoke-fest since it was nothing more than a peaceful protest. We have spent the last 23 years smoking side by side with the uniformed officers who, any other day of the week, would take our paraphernalia, probably issue us a ticket and send us on our way. And it has always been an amazing juxtaposition of the two worlds: cannabis and cop.
So what is going to happen next year when it’s no longer a peaceful protest but just a smoke-fest? You can probably bet that the juxtaposition of the two worlds won’t be so peaceful, and that cops and cannabis enthusiasts won’t be standing side by side. That’s right – the 2018 4/20 Vancouver was the last there will ever be. No more can we claim that we are protesting if cannabis is legal. No longer are we a unified community coming together to stand up for the rights of a plant. No, next year the city and the law will just see it as 10,000 people getting together to get high. And we don’t think they will turn such a blind eye to it.
Let’s get nostalgic here and look back and the last 4/20 that LTC was proud to be part of: