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The 4/20 Events Society may not have been able to obtain a permit from the city’s Park Board, but that didn’t stop nearly 40,000 revellers from descending on Sunset Beach last April 20. Under a cloud of smoke that you could spot (and smell) from Burrard Bridge, vendors, activists and weed lovers gathered for one of the city’s most contested holidays.
“We’re not selling anything here in the park, because we don’t believe that we should be able to,” says Joseph Le, owner of the S.W.E.D. (Smoke Weed Every Day) dispensary. Instead, Le hopes to build brand awareness among those with dispensary cards. “We want to respect the city; we want to respect the policing. And so we’ve decided that we’re not here to go sell merchandise at the park, because there’s a lot of underage people.”
This may be Anna Martin’s last time at Vancouver’s 4/20 for a while. “I’m moving back to Ireland in six weeks,” says Martin, who’s lived here for three years. However, for today, she’s looking forward to “getting high.”
“Basically, I think that it’s important to follow evidence-based science, and all of the evidence says that there’s a lot of good that cannabis can do for people,” says Kali Readwin, who supports legalizing marijuana. “I mean, look at everybody here having a good time, chill. Like, if everybody was drunk in this kind of situation I feel like there’d be more complications.”
Gill Nesbitt is somewhat of a 4/20 connoisseur—she’s been to events in Whistler, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman and Australia. “I grew up in a family that really embraced ,” says Nesbitt. “There’s been a big liberation for weed in this last year. People don’t realize how much it does.”
Sara Gillingwater, from White Rock, B.C., has been attending 4/20 since she was of legal age, but she is sporting a tamer outfit this year. “Usually I go as a weed fairy, but I thought, you never know the weather. It could rain; it could almost snow,” says Gillingwater. “I thought I’d wear something that I can put a hoodie over.”
Former Calgarian Demi Levendale is taken aback by the scale of Vancouver’s event. “Alberta needs to amp it up a lot,” says Levendale.
Every year, Saleem Sheikh comes to 4/20 from Langley with his buddies. “This is actually my sixth time coming here,” says Sheik, a fan of the new Sunset Beach location. “It’s more spacious. You get to get around nicely and freely.”
Kuni Sakurai has been planning on attending this event for over a year. Originally from Japan, he travelled here from Australia just to partake in the day’s festivities. “It’s very good. I like it,” says Sakurai.
Not everyone here is interested in smoking weed. “I actually don’t really smoke,” says Philip Solomonovich. “I just wanted to come for the community vibe.”