Vancouver 4/20 event moving to Sunset Beach in 2016

Organizers of Vancouver's annual 4/20 celebration say they're planning to move the pro-marijuana event to Sunset Beach from its usual location at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but the Park Board says it's not welcome.

The Parks Board says the annual pro-marijuana celebration isn't welcome

4/20 celebrations take place worldwide on April 20. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Organizers of Vancouver's annual 4/20 celebration say they're planning to move the pro-marijuana event to Sunset Beach from its usual location at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but the Park Board says it's not welcome.

Jodie Emery is one of the organizers of Vancouver's 4/20 celebration. (CBC)

The world-wide event takes place on April 20, and culminates in a mass marijuana light-up at 4:20 p.m. PT. 

"We need to move because the art gallery is going to be closing down that location, and also because it would be nice to have a little more space to enjoy and protest prohibition," said Jodie Emery, one of the organizers.

"We believe the beach is a safe place because sand won't go on fire, and we'll make sure we'll have ashtrays and any sort of garbage collection for any of the refuse left behind." 

The controversial event began as a marijuana legalization protest with about 200 people at Victory Square Park in 1995.

Last year, tens of thousands of people attended, snarling traffic throughout the downtown core and raising public safety concerns. Many complained the event had become less of a protest and more of a lucrative festival that didn't pay fees to cover clean-up or policing costs. 

Sarah Kirby-Yung says Sunset Beach is not an appropriate location for Vancouver 4/20 celebrations. (CBC)

The Vancouver Park Board, which operates the city's beaches, says the event isn't welcome on the city's recreational spaces because of those concerns. 

"It's an unsanctioned event and an unpermitted event," said commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung. "We do not feel that Sunset Beach is an appropriate venue for 4/20."

Kirby-Yung also pointed out that the city's parks and beaches are all non-smoking, with bylaws in place to enforce that rule. 

But Emery said organizers haven't applied for a permit because they don't believe they would be given one due to the nature of the event. 

"We're doing everything required of a permitted event to make sure it's safe and secure," she said. 

With files from Julianne Hazelwood

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