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This year’s upcoming 4/20 event (Friday, April 20, Sunset Beach, 12-8pm) is a chance to reflect on the many activists and leaders that have helped to bring a necessary end to pot prohibition. This is my first year attending Vancouver’s fabled protest and celebration, and if there was ever one to go to, this is it.With a mission to both celebrate cannabis and encourage legalization, the first gathering was held on April 20, 1995, in Gastown’s Victory Square, organized by the staff of Marc Emery’s original Hemp BC store. It has since inspired an international holiday for pro-cannabis enthusiasts, with events now taking place annually throughout North America, Europe, the UK and Australia. After relocating to the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1997 and then to its present location on Sunset Beach in 2016, this year’s festival includes a farmer’s market, live music, speakers and more, with organizers expecting upwards of 100,000 attendees.But if the goal of federal legalization has finally been achieved, has the sun finally set on 4/20?Sure, attitudes towards cannabis are quickly evolving, but stigma and misinformation will linger post-prohibition. Would-be consumers will still need to be educated and empowered to make the best-possible decisions when it comes to responsible cannabis use. Legalization won’t change people’s entrenched ideas overnight, but it will allow for much-needed research and education that may one day unlock the full potential of this incredible plant. That said, 4/20’s common-sense and community-minded messages of empowerment and enlightenment are therefore more essential and vital than ever.
If the goal of federal legalization has finally been achieved, has the sun finally set on 4/20?
As a country, we’ll all see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, so for this year’s 4/20 (and beyond), consider a trio of strains inspired by some of Vancouver’s progressive cannabis crusaders:In 1994, activist and politician Marc Emery launched Hemp BC, one of Canada’s first headshops, which operated defiantly for five years. A lifelong entrepreneur, he co-owns and operates (with his wife and fellow activist Jodie Emery) Pot TV, Cannabis Culture magazine, and a chain of Cannabis Culture stores. At the West End location, the staff suggested Charlie’s Web, a high CBD strain related to the famous Charlotte’s Web cultivar. Heralded for delivering a calming and focused effect, I fell instantly in love with the bud’s sweet tropical aromas that reminded me of a peppery Thai mango salad served over a bed of just-poured topsoil. It’s perfect for a daytime stroll around Sunset Beach, or for writing a cannabis column in a popular magazine. Take your pick.Tucked into a tiny strip of stores between a dry cleaner and a dental clinic, The Wealth Shop in Point Grey holds the notable distinction of being the very first cannabis retailer to receive a legal municipal license to sell (still) illegal products by the City of Vancouver in May 2016. A current staff favourite, the Red Congolese lives up to its namesake with a dense mane of brick-red stigma (hairs) covering a tight sage-green bud. Its brambly scents of ruby grapefruit, cedar and Asian pear carry through on the palate, leading to a clear-headed and wide-eyed feeling of peace and wellbeing. Pair this one with parties and protests alike.Across the city on East Van’s Commercial Drive, the not-for-profit BC Compassion Club remains North America’s longest continuously-running dispensary. With a core mandate to make the therapeutic benefits of cannabis accessible for all, this client-centric dispensary opened its doors in 1997, and now boasts a membership of nearly 10,000 patients. Working with a selection of passionate and dedicated local growers, many of whom farm organically, each shipment is inspected and lab-tested to ensure the products are free from mold and pesticides. During my first visit in the shop, I asked the very knowledgeable staffer for their top pick. They recommended an Indica strain called Pochi, which is so in-demand from patients that the club buys the grower’s entire crop, then sets daily limits to stretch out its limited supply. I can see why: these tiny buds pack a punch. With subtle flavours of candy cane and caramel, this sleepy little number is best-suited to quiet post-420 reflection, ideally curled up in front of a warm Netflix. The breakdown: Charlie’s Web (High CBD Sativa), $10/gram. Cannabis Culture, 1674 Davie Street; Red Congolese (Sativa), $12/gram. The Wealth Shop, 4545 West 10th Avenue; Pochi (Indica), $8.50/gram. BC Compassion Club Society, 2995 Commercial Drive.