VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Park Board has passed a motion asking organizers of an annual marijuana festival to cancel a recently announced headline act, fearing the performance could draw even more people to the unsanctioned event.
The 4-20 festival, held annually in Vancouver on April 20 as a celebration of cannabis culture, attracted about 40,000 people to Sunset Beach last year, defying Park Board regulations requiring permits for large events.
Organizers have hired rap singer Cypress Hill to headline the 2019 festival, prompting Commissioner John Coupar to make a motion calling for cancellation of the concert.
Park Board commissioners have also requested an urgent meeting with Vancouver Police, Fire and Rescue Services, as well as officials from Coastal Health, to discuss safety concerns.
The 4-20 event has been held at Sunset Beach since 2017, after lack of space squeezed it out of its original location on the plaza outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Coupar worries the concert and added attendance will mean even more damage to the green space.
He's hopeful the motion will encourage the organizers to scale back but is skeptical because it's the 25th anniversary of 4-20 in Vancouver, it falls on the Easter long weekend and it's the first event since marijuana was legalized in Canada.
The addition of Cypress Hill is an unacceptable escalation, Coupar says.
"It's almost like they're saying, 'Okay, you think it was big last year, we're going to really make it bigger and there’s nothing you can do about it.' "
"If you compare it to, say, Celebration of Light, they pay all the fees, they pay all the policing. We don't allow 250,000 people to come down to English Bay and drink openly on the beach," he says.
The request to cancel the rap concert is reasonable and Coupar says 4-20 organizers should consider the consequences of refusal.
"We're sending a message. If they want to work in the future with any of the agencies of the city, I think they should consider a reasonable request from the Vancouver Park Board. I'm hoping they step back and take a reasoned look at it."
Supporters of the event have defended the move to Sunset Beach in the past, calling allegations of damage to the fields "smear messaging" against the marijuana movement.
Organizers covered grass fields with plywood last year to protect turf that was churned to mud during rainy celebrations in 2017, but they have refused to pay policing costs estimated at about $200,000, and also defy park board restrictions against smoking in city parks.