The City of Vancouver is consulting lawyers about its options to force 4/20 organizers to pay for costs incurred during and after the annual pro-pot rallies at Sunset Beach.
The city objects to organizers calling Friday’s event, where a conservative estimate of $2 million of marijuana was sold, a “protest”, which would exempt organizers from paying for its extra policing and cleanup costs.
“The city does not have the legal authority to collect costs for this unsanctioned and unpermitted event that the organizers deem a protest,” said city spokesman Jag Sandhu in an email. “The city has significant concerns regarding the commercial nature of the event, and questions the characterization of that activity as a protest.”
He said individuals have a right to protest and money shouldn’t be a barrier to that, but “we expect commercial activity like the 4/20 event to cover the total costs incurred. We are continuing to look into that issue with legal counsel,” he said.
The city hasn’t yet tallied this year’s costs, but last year it spent almost $250,000, mostly for additional policing for the event that wasn’t granted official permission by the city or Vancouver Park Board. The city’s costs were $150,000 in 2016.
Last year, the park board recouped $7,000, the cost of reseeding the Sunset Beach Park lawn, from organizers.
“We agreed to repay $7,000 for the grass,” said organizer Dana Larsen, who said the annual rally is needed to protest laws against pot use and “continued discrimination” against users.
Larsen said 100,000 people visited the event during the day. If each attendee spent $20, which Larsen agreed “was about right,” revenues for the eight-hour event would have amounted to $2 million.
He said he refused to pay, among other fees, a charge of $30,000 for park board staff who would have been working anyway, $200 for lost concession stand income, $2,400 for lost aquatic centre income, and $5,000 for a permit fee “that they refused to let us have.”