The protest must go on. Organizers are committed to continuing the Cannabis Day rally this year, we just aren’t sure exactly how it will look yet.
Cannabis Day is a protest against the prohibition of marijuana and a celebration of cannabis. It’s also a celebration of Canada, the country we love and hope to change for the better.
What started as a small protest on the stairs of the Vancouver Art Gallery 20 years ago has grown in size to include a cannabis farmers market, where growers and vendors openly sell marijuana flowers, extracts, and other products in a safe and peaceful environment without the threat of arrest or police harassment.
The market is an important part of our protest, as it presents a positive alternative to our destructive marijuana laws and publicly displays what we envision as the future of Canada, where cannabis users are free to buy, sell, and consume responsibly and without harm. It is a peaceful act of civil disobedience.
About five years ago, Vancouver marijuana activists hoping to improve the safety and effectiveness of Cannabis Day (and its larger sister-protest, 4/20, held on April 20 at the Art Gallery) started asking vendors for donations. The money collected was used to rent sound equipment and construct a stage to properly address and entertain the growing crowd of marijuana protestors. The money was also used to hire security and first aid attendants, and rent portable bathroom stalls and wireless radios to coordinate safety with ambulance, fire and police services. Organizers attended meetings with City of Vancouver officials regularly in the lead-up to the rallies.
In return for these donations for stage and sound equipment, volunteer activists agreed to organize and oversee vendor booth space locations on the Art Gallery grounds. Activists also helped hundreds of vendors who chose not to donate find suitable spots to put their tents and tables, all while working directly with the city to protect public property and mitigate safety concerns.
CANNABIS DAY 2015
On June 9, 2015 – just a few weeks before the upcoming protest – Cannabis Day organizers received calls from newspaper reporters inquiring about City construction scheduled for the North side of the Art Gallery grounds on July 1. The reporters quoted City officials threatening to shut down the rally and take police action against protestors. This came as news to organizers, who had been planning the protest openly as in years previous and had not received any correspondence from City officials to inform us of the construction.
At 11pm on June 9, organizers received a letter from City officials stating that “The City of Vancouver does not support or approve this event at this location as planned and the City notes that it would violate a number of Civic Bylaws.” The letter advised organizers to find “an appropriate location” and attempt to obtain a permit from the city.
In order to obtain a permit, we would need to obtain insurance for the event, pay “application and permit fees”, pay the cost of police and fire services, pay for engineered site drawings, and provide letters of notification to nearby residents and businesses.
Cannabis Day organizers are committing to working with the city to fulfill the requirements, but have doubts about the possibility of moving the protest from its planned location at this time, since crowds will gather there no matter how much we try to advertise a new location. Moving this late in the game would likely take more time to organize than the organizers have.
But the protest must go on. Organizers are committed to continuing the Cannabis Day rally this year, we just aren’t sure exactly how it will look.
Cannabis Day organizers will meet with City officials tomorrow to explain why we think moving the rally is impossible and not necessary even if there is construction on the North side, as the South side of the Art Gallery would also serve our purposes.
If we aren’t able to strike a deal with the city, we will still have a protest – but we will do so without a stage, and will refund all vendor donations.
This morning, City Manager Penny Ballem revealed what the City claims are the costs of 4/20 2015. Ballem told CKNW: “The final tally is $93,000: $52,000 for policing, $26,000 for firefighters, $10,000 went to porta-potties and other sanitation costs, and $4,500 went to traffic control.”
At least one part of this is absolutely not true. We pay the cost for porta-potties (12 toilets at a total price of $1800) and clean-up, and the entire place is spotless every year when we’re done. We have the receipts and photos to prove it. We also pay for three first-aid tents with a team of health professionals and an on-site ambulance, as well as wireless radios, a paid professional security team of 10 people, crowd control barricades and more.
In past years, police presence has been minimal, with a few officers patrolling the site to make sure things are going well. Unfortunately, an unnecessary number of police officers were on site this year, most standing in groups with nothing to do. In days after 4/20, City officials began complaining to media about the costs associated with the event, which seem outrageously high to us.
The protest, being volunteer driven, is not intended to generate profits. If the City plans to charge $93,000 in fees, we would need to dramatically increase donation requests and find new ways to raise money, since the amount is several times the entire cost of the stage and sound equipment.
Hopefully we’ll be able to work out a deal with the City that will allow us to continue.
Updates to come as we find out more.
Cannabis Day & 4/20 Organizer