British Columbia

Vancouver city councillors still worried as 420 goes ahead without permit

Saturday’s forecast in Vancouver calls for a cloud of marijuana smoke over Sunset Beach and it’s got city councillors debating whether the 420 event should be given a permit for safety and insurance reasons.

Cannabis event was denied permit by park board, citing a ban on smoking in parks

Thousands are expected to attend this year’s unsanctioned 420 event. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Saturday's forecast in Vancouver calls for a cloud of marijuana smoke over Sunset Beach and it's got city councillors debating whether the 420 event should be given a permit for safety and insurance reasons.  

Thousands are expected to attend this year's unsanctioned 420 event, particularly since hip-hop group Cypress Hill is expecting to draw a larger crowd than usual with its free concert.

"I'm very concerned about this event," said Melissa De Genova, an NPA city councillor. "I don't think they're prepared for the number of people."

An estimated 100,000 people are expected to show up, more than double last year's attendance.

Questions around insurance

The Vancouver Park Board has denied organizers a permit for the event, citing bylaws that ban smoking in public parks.

Without a permit, event organizers have said they've had trouble getting commercial liability insurance in the past. De Genova describes an uninsured event as a significant risk if anything happens from the stage collapsing to an uncontrollable angry crowd causing damage.

"It's not just insurance for the band here, we're talking about insurance if something horrible happens with the stage," she told The Early Edition.

"I'm not sure that [the band's tour manager] knew that there was absolutely no insurance [when the band was hired]."

The cannabis event was denied a permit by the park board, citing a ban on smoking in parks. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Dana Larsen, an organizer with 420, said finding a company to insure an event that does not have a permit has historically been a challenge.   

"It's very hard to get insurance when you don't have a permit, [it's] one of the many ways in which the park board refusing us a permit puts them, as well, in a situation of liability."

He said the city will also be held responsible if something goes wrong.

In an interview with The Early Edition on CBC Radio One on Thursday, Larsen stated the event was not insured. On Friday, he said he "said the wrong thing" in the interview and that, in fact, the event obtained commercial liability insurance earlier this month.

Larsen declined to say which company insured the event.

The city provided 420 with a list of expectations to follow, despite not granting a permit, and city staff, including police, will be on hand.

The weed-loving California rappers will be performing in Vancouver for the annual 420 smoke-in which is expected to draw huge crowds. (Hermann J. Knippertz/The Associated Press)

Forced involvement 

De Genova disagrees and emphasized the city does not sanction the event and staff only support it in as far as keeping the public safe.

'We're being pushed into this," she said. "We've been threatened that this is going to go ahead anyway and we have to do what we can to make sure that we don't lose lives here."

Green Party Vancouver Coun. Michael Wiebe says he voted in favour of giving 4/20 a permit when he was on the park board in previous years.

"If we permit them, we were allowed to deal with the stage. We can make [the event] smaller. We can make sure there's enough washrooms. We can make sure there's a site plan," Wiebe said.

"In a non-permitted event, we don't have those controls."


  • A previous version of this story stated 420 Vancouver did not have commercial liability insurance and suggested it could not obtain coverage because it did not have a permit for the event. The information was based on an interview with organizer Dana Larsen. In fact, Larsen later said the event had been insured earlier in April.
    Apr 19, 2019 3:07 PM PT

With files from The Early Edition


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