Celebration, protest—or whatever you want to call it—the annual event cost the city almost $250,000.
The tally is in for the annual 4/20 event and this year’s smoke-filled shindig cost the city a total of $245,379 in policing, fire and rescue, engineering, emergency management, and parks and recreation costs. This includes combined costs for the main 4/20 event at Sunset Beach, where approximately 100,000 gathered throughout the day, and its offshoot in front of the Art Gallery which drew a crowd of several hundred. Not included are costs incurred by BC Ambulance Services, Vancouver Coastal Health or hours put in by city staff. Last year's event cost the city $148,000. Organizers of the Sunset Beach soiree have also received an invoice for an additional $65,000 from the Park Board, which is seeking reimbursement for some of its costs associated with the event. Organizer Dana Larsen of Sensible BC said the invoice includes nearly $10,000 for the reseeding and closing of a field at Sunset Beach after it was damaged by foot traffic, as well as $32,000 for Park Board employees' staff wages and more than $10,000 for extra portable toilets. While Larsen said he doesn't take issue with the event being billed for the damaged field, he balked at many of the other expenses, noting organizers already spent $160,000 to rent portable toilets, hire private security and pay for paramedics, emergency services and staging. It was the Park Board who chose to bring in extra toilets without consultation, Larsen said, noting the invoice also includes $8,000 in lost revenue from the closure of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and the Sunset Beach concession stand (another decision made by the Park Board) and a $5,000 permit fee, even though the event's permit application was denied.
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For Larsen, it all adds up to discrimination against pot users. “The Park Board is very hostile to us and trying to nickle-and-dime us in a way that they don’t do for any other event,” he told VanMag. “To me, this is really about the Non-Partisan Association hating cannabis and cannabis users. This to me, is simply harassment of us because we choose to use cannabis instead of alcohol." Larsen added that the Park Board has refused to issue 4/20 an event permit for several years running, and that suggestions the event move to the PNE proved unfeasible after the PNE board rejected the proposal. However, Larsen said organizers have also rejected an offer by city staff to move 4/20 to a paved area on the south side of False Creek near the Cambie Bridge (used for the Vancouver Food Truck Festival), calling the area “a mud pit” that lacks shade. “It’s not a suitable place to host people for a full day,” he said. With marijuana legalization just around the corner, many people have questioned the relevance of 4/20, which considers itself a protest and is therefore not required to hold a permit or pay a deposit toward city services used.