Manitoba

Smaller turnout for Winnipeg's first 420 since legalization

The legalization of pot didn’t stop Winnipeggers from showing up at the Manitoba Legislative Building Saturday to mark what had been an annual protest against marijuauna’s prohibition.

Some celebrate legalization, others protest 'prohibition 2.0'

Jade Osborne, 24, smokes pot on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building on Saturday at the city's annual 420 rally. The event, the first since marijuana was made legal last October, was a little more subdued than previous years. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The legalization of pot didn't stop Winnipeggers from showing up at the Manitoba Legislative Building Saturday to mark what had been an annual protest against marijuauna's prohibition.

While a few hundred pot-supporters turned up at this year's 420, the event was noticeably more subdued than previous incarnations, where crowds of thousands were the norm.

The more mellow feel of Winnipeg's first legal 420 didn't bother long-time attendee Mike Lomax, who said he was there to celebrate legalization.

"It's more of a rebellious thing when it's illegal, more people probably showed up to give it support back then," he said while waiting in line to try free samples of pot on offer at the event.

Mike Lomax says the legalization of pot may have resulted in a lower turn out at this year's event. (Travis Golby/CBC)

"It's a little bit smaller than last year but overall the turnout is awesome … and everybody is cheerful."

For years 420 events have been held on April 20 in cities in Canada and around the world calling for the legalization of marijuana. Last year an estimated 2,500 people attended Winnipeg's rally.

Thaddeus Conrad, who organized this year's 420, said while pot might be legal now, there's still reason to protest.

A few hundred people attended this year's 420 rally in Winnipeg, down from an estimated 2,500 in 2018. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

He calls legalization "prohibition 2.0."

"There's actually more Charter rights and freedoms being infringed on now than there was before legalization," he said.

"Pot is legal but the problem is the Cannabis Act, C-45 is still criminalizing people for a plant."

'More work needs to be done'

Conrad says the way he sees it, the new rules around pot mean, ironically, users face more persecution than when it was illegal and police were more likely to turn a blind eye to infractions.

"A lot more work needs to be done to make the landscape of cannabis in Canada beneficial for everybody — because people are still being charged and people are still going to jail," he said.

"We're going to continue to do these events and we're going to continue to educate people."

Thaddeus Conrad organized this year’s 420 rally in Winnipeg. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Vostock Hazard agrees, telling CBC News he came to Saturday's event to both celebrate legalization and protest what he calls unfair sentencing for users caught with illicit pot.

"It might be de facto legal, but there's still a lot that needs to be done," said Hazard, who hasn't missed a 420 since 2006.

"There's still a lot that needs to be protested."

Vostock Hazard proudly shows off the legal marijuana he brought to this year's 420 in Winnipeg. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg police — who have been faithful attendees of previous 420 events — were noticeably not present this time around.

A police spokesperson said while smoking marijuana in public remains against the law in Manitoba, officers wouldn't enforce current laws for those indulging at the rally.

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With files from Austin Grabish

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