Canada’s 4/20 Celebrations To Reach Higher Level in 2012

CANNABIS CULTURE – The entire planet becomes one big hot-box this Friday, April 20, when marijuana-lovers from around the world gather to celebrate 4/20. Cities across Canada will host protests that promise to be bigger and better (and higher) than ever.

WATCH THE 4/20 LIVE STREAM on Pot TV starting early Friday.

April 20 is known as “4/20” to potheads around the globe and is a day of celebration of the incredible cannabis plant.

The genesis of this high holiday was in the mid-nineties, when activists working for Prince of Pot Marc Emery held a small protest across the street from Cannabis Culture Headquarters in Vancouver. Read a detailed history of 4/20 on Cannabis Culture.

The event has now grown to include over 60 cities in Canada, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand and other countries. Read the complete list of 4/20 2012 cities on CC.

The rallies are intended as a celebration, but also as a protest of oppressive marijuana laws that imprison thousands of non-violent people every year at a cost of untold billions, burden our prison system, and cause pain and suffering to citizens and their families.

Vancouver’s unique 4/20 celebration at the Vancouver Art Gallery, one of the largest in the world, now boasts over 15,000 attendees, two live music stages, high-profile political speakers, and plays host to the world’s only outdoor cannabis farmers market.

“It’s unique,” activist Dana Larsen told Cannabis Culture. “I don’t think there’s any other event in the world that has this sort of temporary autonomous zone. One day where we buy and sell marijuana openly and enjoy ourselves. There’s nothing like that in the world.”

Larsen is a former a candidate for leadership of the BC NDP and former editor and founder of Cannabis Culture Magazine. He’s also the director of The Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, one of the main sponsors of Vancouver 4/20.

“It’s going to be a very fine event this year like it is every year,” Larsen said, “but we expect it to be bigger than ever.”

Organizers say this year’s even will again have two stages with booming sound systems with live music, DJs, and a roster of speakers that include NDP MP for Vancouver East Libby Davies, Princess of Pot Jodie Emery, cannabis historian Chris Bennett, and many others.

Acts like Harmonic Cosmonauts, Indigo Kids, Pigeon Park, Kitty in the City, Kosta Man, Speeches Beyond’s Supernovah Soundwave, The Ponderosas, Willie Awesome, and many more will provide the musical backdrop for a day of reefer rallying.

“This event really is a platform for so many different levels of growth and of next-level thought,” 4/20 organizer Adam Bowen told CC. “The model for this event is putting the audience in a state of ‘wow’, then hitting them with the message.”

The event will, as always, include the famous joint toss just before the huge smoking session at 4:20pm.

David Malmo-Levine throwing joints to the crowd at a 4/20 rally. (Photo by Bert Easterbrook)David Malmo-Levine throwing joints to the crowd at a 4/20 rally. (Photo by Bert Easterbrook)David Malmo-Levine, veteran pot activist and director of the Vancouver Herb Museum, will wield the mic in his traditional role as 4/20 MC.

Malmo-Levine has played a part in most of Vancouver’s 17 years of 4/20 celebrations, and says Vancouver is the only “open to all” cannabis farmers market on earth he’s aware of. “If anyone knows of any others please let me know,” Malmo-Levine asks CC readers.

Over the years, Malmo-Levine pioneered a concept he calls “Hug Power” to stave off arrests by local law enforcement. In years previous, when police made moves to arrest anyone dealing marijuana at a rally, Malmo-Levine would encourage members of the crowd to gather around and hug the dealer, blocking police access. This technique was a non-violent way to stand-down police, who have always preferred leaving the dealers alone to making numerous arrests.

Malmo-Levine encourages people to come down and get involved in the 4/20 celebration at every level.

“If your pot grower or dealer or activist is doing a bad job, don’t bitch about them,” he said, “show them how to do it better. We all must become the growers and dealers and activists we wish to see in this world.”

Organizers say 54 vendors booths – marijuana dealers, hemp shops, activist groups, and other local businesses and organizations – will line the the Art Gallery grounds and adjacent streets, with musicians and speakers on stage from Noon till 8pm Pacific. This year will also feature added hired and volunteer security, bathroom facilities, first-aid tent, and a system for hanging banners of sponsors.

Jodie Emery at 4/20 2010Jodie Emery at 4/20 2010Bowen said Vancouver 4/20 “is a $100,000 event, done for about $20,000”, but it still takes a lot of fundraising to get the job done. Major sponsors of the event like CCHQ, The Vancouver Dispensary, and The Vancouver Seed Bank have traditionally chipped in several thousand dollars each. This year, organizers are asking vendors to help pitch in for the cost of organizing the event.

“As the event grows we’ve been trying to impose a bit of order on a sort of anarchistic event in that we’re encouraging people that have booths to become sponsors to help contribute to the event,” Larsen said. “I don’t know if ‘mandatory’ is the right word or not – it’s a mandatory fee but we can’t enforce if people don’t want to pay. Our goal is not to be heavies and ruin the event for people, our goal is to make sure we can put on a successful event.”

Larsen said organizers are hoping just to break even this year, but said that any funding surplus would go into legalization activism.

“All the major sponsors already give thousands of dollars every month to causes that involve ending prohibition in various ways,” Larsen said. “They fund court cases, community groups, and political change. If the event does make any profit, which I highly doubt will happen, that money will go towards ending prohibition and making sure future events are equally as fun.”

The new collection plan is not without its critics. Jodie Emery – wife of imprisoned activist Marc Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture, and one of the event’s major sponsors – has stood firm in her opposition of any “mandatory” fees for vendors, but says she is “happy to be contributing to a celebration of the cannabis culture and protest against prohibition, just as Marc has always sponsored this event.”

There have been very few problems in the past Larsen said, thanks mostly to the laid-back attitudes of most cannabis smokers.

“Certainly if we had 20,000 people out there all drinking alcohol non-stop, it would be a chaotic, violent, nightmarish event,” he said. “That won’t happen with marijuana smokers. We haven’t really had any issues in the past and we’d like to keep it that way.”

4/20 organizers say the event has become a world-class event that brings tourists to Vancouver like worshippers to a marijuana Mecca.

“Vancouver’s 4/20 is a draw for people across our region and indeed around the world,” Vancouver 4/20 organizer Jacob Hunter said in a press release about the event. “We see tourists from Toronto, the Maritimes, the United States, and even Europe and Australia.”

Pot TV has secured a 4/20 Skybox, high above the Art Gallery grounds, and will be broadcasting the events in Vancouver as early as we can.

See photos and videos from last year’s 4/20 celebration in Vancouver on Cannabis Culture or vist the official 4/20 Vancouver webpage.

Organizers of Toronto 4/20 will march at High Noon from downtown smoke-lounge Vapour Central to Yonge-Dundas Square, where they expect a crowd of 10,000 happy herbalists.

Bands The Calrizians and Must Stash Hat will take the stage, and speakers include Cannabis Champion of the World Matt Mernagh and Comedian Mike Rita.

Other speakers include MTV Canada’s Hunter Collins, Paul Thompson, K Trevor Wilson, Chris Robinson, Poetic Justice, Matt Oliver, Erin Gorman and Chris Goodwin. Bong Man and Herb from are on mascot duty.

Organizers say a Cannabis Cannon will also be onsite. Yes, you read correctly, a cannon that shoots cannabis.

4/20 in Toronto.4/20 in Toronto.Chris Goodwin, Toronto 4/20 organizer and manager of Vapor Central, said protests like 4/20 are a important technique in bringing about political change.

“I read the Jack Herer book The Emperor Wears No Clothes in ’94 and It changed my life, I started promoting hemp awareness, but few showed up to a hemp seminar,” Goodwin explained to CC. “When I first met Marc Emery in ’98, he told me that if I wanted more media, more exposure, to stop doing hemp activism and engage in peaceful open civil disobedience. The next year, I helped organize my first 420, with over 200 people breaking the law in defiant solidarity, and more media exposure than I could ever afford. Now our Hashmob protests have grown to thousands of cannabis culture enthusiasts.”

Other cities in Canada with 4/20 rallies include Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Peterborough, Niagara Falls, Montréal, and St. John’s.

A rally is planned for London, Ontario, where last year police arrested three participants at Victoria Park. Cops are promising that “strict law enforcement would again be in effect this year.”

A police press release warns, “The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is in full force and effect on (Apri 20), as it is on any other day, time, or place in Canada, and members of the London Police Service will enforce the law on this date as they would throughout the year.

“A conviction for a criminal offence, including those under the Control Drugs and Substances Act, will result in a permanent criminal record which could impact future travel or employment as it could be revealed through a criminal record background check.”

Last year saw thousands gather at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill to protest directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other lawmakers, who continue to crack down on Canada’s cannabis community with the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offences. Protestors will return to the Hill this year with more passion for pot.

If you can’t make it to a rally near you, watch the LIVE all-day broadcast from 4/20 rallies in Vancouver and Toronto on Pot TV.

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.