Cannabis Day 2010: Police Show Respect For Vancouver’s Cannabis Community

CANNABIS CULTURE – Every year on the first of July, thousands of ardent marijuana-lovers gather in downtown Vancouver for Cannabis Day; a patriotic, pot-infused celebration that has over time developed into an open marketplace for THC-laden treats of all types.

Designed to coincide with Canada’s national holiday, the event is held at the Vancouver Art Gallery and is one of the two largest protest rallies in the city (4/20 is the other) and this year featured music and speeches by well-known Vancouver activists like David Malmo-Levine, Dana Larsen, and Jodie Emery, wife of Prince of Pot Marc Emery.

The first microphones and joints were sparked at Noon, with a large crowd already gathered and several vendors ready to sell their pipes, t-shirts, seeds, and more. Organizers estimate roughly 7,000 people in attendance throughout the day, and by the time of the huge smoke session at 4:20, the crowd had overflowed from the Art Gallery grounds onto surrounding streets.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the successful rally was the non-confrontational police presence and response in the face of open public marijuana sales – a stark contrast to the actions of baton-wielding, head-smashing police at the G20 protests in Toronto, but something Vancouver’s cannabis community has come to expect and appreciate deeply.

“I think Vancouver police are the standard to which all police across Canada need to hold themselves to when it comes to dealing with peaceful protest,” Cannabis Day organizer Jacob Hunter told Cannabis Culture. “I frankly think VPD should be conducting training seminars for every other police department in the country on how to deal with peaceful assembly.”

Police numbers at the rally were few, with officers occasionally patrolling the crowd and walking casually past tables stacked with large glass jars and small plastic baggies filled with green buds. Off to the sides of Gallery grounds sat a dozen tents and kiosks selling marijuana by the bud or joint, and a wide assortment of cannabis-infused edibles including brownies, cookies, lollipops, and lemonade.

Many members of the crowd approached officers to shake hands and give their thanks. Police smiled and held up the two-finger ‘peace sign’ and were the picture of politeness.

This is also a contrast to the treatment of medical marijuana compassion clubs in Quebec and Ontario, which were recently raided by police.

Hunter says activists have a long-standing, positive relationship with Vancouver police, which is the result of open and honest communications and mutual understandings.

“The Vancouver police know the difference between real crimes that harm people and marijuana sales between adults that don’t,” Hunter said. “It is an understanding among police that there are better things to spend their time on. We really owe the VPD our thanks for showing discretion and restraint.”

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find another place on the planet where large groups of protestors have had the courage to sell cannabis on the streets so openly, which forces police to temper themselves or make mass arrests.

“It’s unique in that dealers all over the world, including Holland, are facing persecution and the closing of shops,” said Cannabis Day MC David Malmo-Levine, “while here our marketplace is flourishing and anyone can come out and deal with little fear of retribution from authorities.”

I spoke with several of the sellers with tables to find out if they were afraid of being arrested – and to sample some of their fine products, of course (I downed a tasty cannabis-infused lemonade and was flying high after a few minutes).

“There are so many people participating and openly selling,” a pot-seller who preferred to remain anonymous said, “If they arrested me, why not arrest everyone else as well. There is a lot of power in numbers.”

It’s true: there’s power in numbers, and Vancouver police know this. At Vancouver’s Global Marijuana March last May, activists successfully subverted the arrest of one of their own by using “Hug Power”, a technique where several protestors hug the arrestee until police stand down. At each rally, Malmo-Levine addresses the audience and explains the technique, asking for support from the crowd.

“I don’t know anywhere else in the world where smoke-in participants will pledge to physically protect their pot dealers from arrest through non-violent civil disobedience and Hug Power,” Malmo-Levine said.

So how did this open marketplace get started? At a rally in 1996, Malmo-Levine, founder of the Vancouver School of Drug War History held a bud raffle, giving away an ounce or two. Activists also throw free joints to the crowd at 4:20 at most rallies. Seeing the public transfer and open smoking of pot, others began to walk through the crowd selling. Over the years this progressed to hand-made signs and menus and then eventually to tents and kiosks.

Sellers told me Cannabis Day and 4/20 are usually their busiest days of the year, but that it “isn’t all about the money”.

“I am out here for more than the money,” the anonymous pot dealer told me, “and I try to convince as many other dealers as I can to sell here as well, so that people know there is nothing wrong with cannabis. At the moment in British Columbia, you won’t get in much trouble for it, but that could change if we don’t stand up for our rights. We have to keep that mindset going, especially now that Marc Emery is in jail.”

Emery is the Vancouver marijuana activists and former publisher of Cannabis Culture famously extradited to the United States for an expected five-year prison sentence for selling marijuana seeds on the Internet. Emery funded Cannabis Day rallies and other global cannabis activism with millions collected from seed sales, and this is the main reason (according to the DEA’s own press release) that he is now behind bars.

“Free Marc” Campaigners were out in force at the rally collecting petition signatures to bring Marc back to Canada through the Treaty Transfer process, wearing the signature Free Marc shirts and sweaters, which have now been worn by famous supporters like Tommy Chong.

Emery’s wife Jodie, a BC Green Party Director-at-Large, gave an inspiring speech asking for support for her husband and warning of the dangers of the Conservative Government of Canada’s tough-on-crime drug policies.

“It’s true this is the first time Marc Emery, my husband, the Prince of Pot, has not been with us,” she said, “and it’s certainly sad, but we need to use this tragedy to motivate us to action. Because it is not just Marc who is going to be sitting in a prison cell if this government stays in power, a number of you will be put in prison. Every one of you selling marijuana – which is a beautiful, wonderful thing – this government wants you to be in prison, and they are a very dangerous threat to what Canada means.”

Since Emery was extradited, Canadian activists have staged over twenty Conservative Party Office Occupations, some resulting in arrests and police brutality. Protestors have shown up at the offices of several high-profile Conservative lawmakers including Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appears to be rattled by the protests, sending RCMP officers to homes of cannabis activists and hiring personal body guards.

Emery was released from solitary confinement last week, where he served three weeks for recording a telephone message to supporters. He is currently awaiting sentencing at SeaTac Federal Detention Center in Washington. [Click here for more info on Marc Emery]

“The Cannabis Canada Flag that you see around,” Jodie Emery told the crowd, “that’s the flag that makes me feel pride. When I see our flag flying … that’s freedom. And the Canadian flag will soon be worthless if you don’t get involved, help bring Marc Emery home, save your friends, save yourself, save our country. Peace and pot, Happy Cannabis Day, Free Marc Emery!”



  1. Pingback: safe space for dealers – Cannabis in Canada The Illustrated History by Dana Larsen

  2. A fellow Country men on

    It trully is the majority of us that want the plant free i was thinking of trying to start a vote not for a decision but just to see how many of our countries people would like it legal i mean if it comes back over 60 % want it legal its the majority and we should have a better chance of getting a bill made to vote on

  3. A Concerned American on

    Just taking the time to say that shows you looked this up to become informed about a growing conflict in the world wich is the multiple drug wars around the world.And you say ignorant things about the rally because you like many others have had instilled in you from a young age that Marijuanna is bad and a dangerous drug but you should question the believes of others before you make a statement like such. you are obviously being pressured by yourself to believe blindly because its easier. but if you truly believed you would take action. These druggie imperialist did more politically in your country then you will probably ever acomplish in your life because they faught for thier believes and not the believes of a money crazed government official in my fked up country.If you take out the drugs and look at the situation it is still wrong because he should be tried and convicted in the country where he comited the *heinous crime of selling a seed to grow a harmless plant that relaxes the mind. But this is canada officials trying to buddy buddy the drug czar in our country thinking it will help them in the future but i got news for you it wont we will get our government back and be free and this is just one more reson to do it and maybe Marc will get a job growing here and all the closed minded political zombies can all go to Canada And freeze thier asses off and not even have a j to keep them warm.

  4. Paddy on

    You’re an asshole dude.

  5. Anonymous on


  6. larry l on

    Did the police show respect…or did the crowd finally act respectfu?…potheads may finally be realizing that u catch more flies with honey.

  7. Erin Holladay on

    Looked like a great event! Wish I could have been there.

  8. Anonymous on

    don’t be silly
    everyone from st Catherine’s to Hearst smokes the herbal

  9. Anonymous on

    “…Is it too much to ask that you in turn support that freedom?…”

    yes it is, you passive aggressive control freak sissy

  10. ray christl ONELOVE church on

    Those days most hippie/yippie events never allowed police to enter and arrest.The hugs and anonymous phalanx would push the pigs back,and let the smoker etc…escape.Later as the masses became afraid of individual identification,and post protest arrest the police could just walk in.People and protest, no matter how peaceful, seems twisted in contemporary media propaganda 2010.This global fascism of Harper/WarBAMA to expand empire and war profit must be voted out.Tear-down the FraserFraud Institute libertarian ruse and retirement home of Kory Teneycke.I would call every donor of this “fraud tank”.We are in deep do do.

  11. Vansterdam on

    What is really funny is this individual is trolling a marijuana activist website. Don’t you have anything better to do?

  12. James on

    Your vitriol is unwarranted. Having a difference of oppinion over a persons personal choices in life is unavoidable. Expressing your oppinion with anger and contempt provides no insight as to why you feel the way you do. I think it is fair to say that the cooperation between police and the cannabis culture is indicative of what democratic societies are all about.

    I would hope you do not advocate the suppression of the rights of the individual, which historically was an uphill battle and consequently one of the pieces of rhetoric used against communism, simply because you are not interested in one’s particular expression of that right.

    I am from Ontario and will exercise my right with respect to those who do not agree. Is it too much to ask that you in turn support that freedom? Communication and cooperation are the only means to positive peace.

    Oppression and absolutist thinking only forestall and excacerbate a problem.

    I wish you the best and hope you find it within yourself to rediscover the democratic spirit that was the pride of western civilization.

    Peace and Love


  13. Anonymous on

    Shuttup. Dumb Dumb. NORML People smoke pot. Haters like you think they can stick their heads into other peoples business.

    Sincerely, Ontario Resident.

  14. Anonymous on

    If you pull any more of your
    west coast druggie imperialism in Ontario
    Ontario will beat your asses again cage you
    stay out in dead salmon floating dopeland
    where you won’t get in the way of normal people

  15. American Marine on

    I have mentioned in blogs before that I am American, and and ex-marine (having served 4 years in the 1970’s. I have to tell you that I despise the American and Canadian politicians and lawmakers that continue to keep millions of peaceful people under their control using marijuana as the vehicle. They (at least the ones that aren’t idiots) know that marijuana is not the dangerous harmful drug it has been portrayed to be and yet the continue to lock people up and take their money and possessions because of it. Each year thousands of Americans get locked up for doing nothing more than having a small amount on their person (often less than an ounce). It really pains and angers me that the Canadian Govt caved in to the American Govt and allowed Marc Emery to be locked up in a brutal American prison… Oh man – don’t get me started as I could easily think of about 10 paragraphs full of swear words to describe my feelings towards those responsible.
    It is important for people everywhere to know that it is not the average American that is responsible for the marijuana prohibition. In spite of having spent about a trillion dollars over the last decade to try to stop us from using marijuana America has the highest reported usage in the world. It’s our leaders (whom we often have little choice of and even less influence over once they get in office) that is keeping the damn prohibition in place. My understanding is that what influences them the most is money. They get plenty of money in various ways thanks to big legal drug companies that don’t want the marijuana competition. Also, law enforcement across America gets millions of dollars for busting peaceful marijuana smokers. It’s just disgraceful! I have read that more money is being spent here to build new prisons than what is being spent on this nations schools! When is this going to end? I could not possible be more frustrated. I can only hope that all of us working together can get rid of the people that continue to perpetrate this incredible injustice!
    Legalize it now!

  16. Anonymous on

    The VPD shows how peace can exist if common sense is used.
    Common sense? image that I wish the rest of the dam world would wake up.
    Thanks VPD for doing the right thing people should not be afraid of police.


    Marijuana and Hemp related events are by far the best events to attend!