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A woman smokes a joint at the Fill the Hill marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday, April 20, 2014. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A woman smokes a joint at the Fill the Hill marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday, April 20, 2014. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Will legal pot make Vancouver’s annual 420 rally go away? Add to ...

The debate that erupted this week over the relocation of the annual 420 protest has led me to this conclusion: Please, please make marijuana legal as quickly as possible so these people go away.

Imagine, no need to gather by the thousands to demonstrate and demand their Jah-given right to get as baked as they please in public.

No controversy over licences, permits, locations or smoking on beaches.

Everyone can just stay home, order some extra pizza and scroll through Netflix. You may not even watch anything; just scroll.

I’m not exactly sure what it is about the annual 420 pot rally that rankles me so, but I do know this: As a spokesperson for the event, Jodie Emery isn’t doing anything to mellow my rankle. Or is it that she’s rankling my mellow? Or is it harshing? Sorry, I’m not really down with the pot-speak.

I had a conversation with Ms. Emery earlier this week best described as circular – for which I was branded “a square” and referred to as “Daddy-O” on Twitter. (For the record, not by Ms. Emery.)

And I get it – in this age of nearly legal marijuana, reminding people that for now, the drug remains illegal is kind of square. I mean, what with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to legalize pot and the city permitting, ahem, medicinal pot shops, we’re well on our way there. There is as well the understandable restraint of police when it comes to enforcement. Nobody wants to see a dude smoking a little reefer hassled by the man, let alone thrown in the slammer.

All of that has emboldened the 420 forces, and sparked a battle between the Park Board and City Hall over the news that this year’s event will move from the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset Beach Park on English Bay.

The all-business, NPA-dominated Park Board doesn’t want it there for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that smoking anything is banned in Vancouver parks and on the city’s beaches. Also, the event is unsanctioned and unpermitted. In fact there’s no way it could be permitted since the core activity happens to be the consumption of an illegal drug. (This is strikingly similar to the city’s logic when it came to why it couldn’t regulate medicinal pot shops. It eventually found a way.)

City officials met with organizers to suggest a number of alternative locations since the Art Gallery lawn will coincidentally be out of commission on April 20. Sunset Beach was not among the locations suggested, but it’s where the party is headed. No one among the Burning Man enthusiasts of the Vision Vancouver council majority is making much of a fuss.

“Going to the beach is great because we’re not shutting down the streets any more,” Ms. Emery told me in an interview.

It’s true – when the rally took over the Art Gallery lawn, traffic was brought to a standstill through much of the downtown core.

When I asked whether that was an indication that organizers weren’t able to control the event, Ms. Emery replied with a question: “Can you imagine if we weren’t there to organize for those 20- to 50,000 people showing up? It would be chaos.”

When I suggested that it was already chaos, Ms. Emery told me it’s because the event had outgrown the venue.

The event, as it is, is billed as a celebration and a protest. Cannabis Culture’s website calls it a “protestival.” (Who but a stoned person could come up with that one?)

But it’s much more than that. It’s also an excellent retail opportunity with 187 booths for rent at a cost of $300 each if booked in advance. (Head to Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture location to book a booth!) Free retail space will be available on a first come, first served basis the day of the event. Jodie Emery says the charge to vendors is to pay for such things as security, washrooms, first aid facilities and so on.

Alcohol is strictly prohibited, because you know what that does to you.

So are generators – I can only assume because of the potentially harmful smoky exhaust.

For an event that can’t get a permit and is run by a bunch of stoned people, it is organized – I’ll give them that.

But ask Ms. Emery about smoking where they ought not, and she points to “full frontal nudity at the Pride Parade” (which there isn’t) and “dogs running around beaches.”

Um, touché I guess.

Here’s the thing.

I don’t care. Smoke weed or don’t. Stay home, don’t drive – don’t hurt anybody and don’t do anything to make other people’s lives miserable.

I fear that my hope that legalization will spell the end of 420 will be dashed.

Post-legalization I see it coming back, bigger, better and higher.

And maybe even with a permit.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.

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