British Columbia

Vancouver's Cannabis Day protest still on, vows Jodie Emery

Plans for this year's Cannabis Day event at the Vancouver Art Gallery have been rolled back, but organizers say the event will still light people up on July 1.

City says event had become a festival, and has ordered organizers to cease and desist or get a permit

There won't be any vendor tents at this year's Cannabis Day in Vancouver, after the City of Vancouver crackdown. (CBC)

Plans for this year's Cannabis Day event at the Vancouver Art Gallery have been rolled back, but organizers say the event will still light people up on July 1.

"I am sure there will be people showing up selling marijuana, because they want to continue the tradition that has been going on for the past 20 years," said organizer and pot activist Jodie Emery.

Every year thousands of people show up to support marijuana legalization and peruse the smorgasbord of pot products— like candies, cookies, lemonade, and free joints — offered by cannabis vendors in pop-up tents.

But earlier this month the city told the organizers without a permit the event as planned would violate a number of bylaws, and ordered them to cease and desist.

The problem from the city's point of view was the one-time protest has morphed into a festival in recent years, with stages, bands and large number of commercial vendors, according to deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston.

And while protests don't need a permit, a festival does, says Johnston.

"We really see it as two different events. One is a festival and they come in for a permit and go through a process with a safety plan and what not, and that's basically the direction that these events that Cannabis Culture has been hosting have been going."

He says the city won't stop pot activists from gathering at the art gallery, as they have a right to assemble, but the city wants Cannabis Day to stick to its roots as a protest.

The move comes after 25,000 people turned out at this year's 4/20 rally at the Art Gallery in May, provoking widespread criticism for its traffic disruptions, policing costs and the large number of people hospitalized for over consumption of marijuana.

Will continue under protest

Emery calls the city's position disappointing, saying they couldn't find an alternate site with just three weeks' notice.

Nevertheless, she and her husband Marc Emery, are vowing the event will go ahead this year as a protest.

An estimated 25,000 people crowded the plaza at the Vancouver Art Gallery and nearby downtown streets during the 4/20 event in May. (Al Stewart/CBC)

That means no stage, no public toilets, no first aid and no security, and refunds for those vendors who have already donated money for a space, she says.  

But Emery isn't worried the absence of vendors will mean a shortage of pot this year.

"I think the police will allow it to carry on safely and smoothly as it always has and they will only step in if there is a security risk."

Johnston says the city did offer organizers another, bigger site for a permitted event, but the offer was declined.

Emery says Cannabis Day has always operated without permits and she believes this is just an attempt to get money from marijuana vendors.

With files from Terry Donnelly

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