4/20 Vancouver Deserves Respect From Civic Leaders

CANNABIS CULTURE – This year’s 4/20 Vancouver celebration was the best ever, and confirms the cannabis celebration as one of the city’s premier cultural events.


An estimated 130,000 people attended 4/20 this year, with a peak crowd of over 100,000 at 4:20pm.

Photos and aerial footage clearly show the entire Sunset Beach Park area completely filled with people at 4:20. At that crowd density we can calculate a crowd of about 110,000. That doesn’t include the many more people scattered further along the beach and park in either direction. (See my note below for how the attendance was calculated.)

Despite the new location and unprecedented high turnout, the huge event went off with absolutely no problems. Despite endless threats and attacks from both City Hall and the Park Board, 4/20 at Sunset Beach was undoubtedly a massive success.


To be clear, the City and Park Board staff members were all kind and courteous, and a pleasure to work with. 4/20 organizers met repeatedly with a wide variety of city and park board staff, such as park rangers, police, paramedics, ambulance service and engineers, including multiple on-site visits to work out event details and safety protocols.

We paid for paramedics, first aid tents and free water stations. We paid for engineering safety drawings of the stage and equipment. We paid for x-ray ground scans before spiking any ground. We paid for portapotties, security, roach buckets, garbage cans, and much more. These costs are considerable, but we’re happy to cover them as part of our community event.

It was only at the political level that 4/20 organizers get treated like we’re less than equal citizens.

Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang dismissed 4/20 as meaningless, and said that our cannabis celebration had “lost its soul.” He actually said that cannabis users have nothing to protest about, while also announcing his party’s plan to close 90% of the city’s currently operating dispensaries.

Meanwhile, Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung refused to ever meet or speak with 4/20 organizers, but took every opportunity to bash us in the media and disrupt the event.

She made sure that the public water supply was turned off at Sunset Beach for 4/20, despite there being a huge crowd on a hot and sunny day. This created a public health hazard, although 4/20 organizers had three tents with plenty of free water and juice.

Kirby-Yung also had all the public garbage cans sealed over so that they could not be used by anyone on 4/20. She did the same with the public recycling bins. The shut-down of public water and public garbage bins didn’t come up in any of our advance discussions, and I bet it was as much a surprise to her own staff as it was for us.


When 4/20 was over we carefully cleaned Sunset Beach Park and piled garbage bags for easy access by sanitation. This has been our procedure for the past 17 years at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the city staff have always appreciated how we made their clean-up job so easy.

In previous years, sanitation would clear out the piled bags in the very early hours of the morning, leaving the site clean.

This year, Kirby-Yung had the sanitation crew hold off until much later, so she could hold a press conference in front of the stack of garbage bags. By waiting until later in the morning, birds, bottle-pickers and wind had caused some scatter. Photos taken at 7am show a clean park.


In actual fact, 4/20 cleaned up after ourselves better than any other public event of our size. With events like Pride or the Fireworks, all the garbage clean-up is done by city and park board, not event volunteers like at 4/20.


4/20 has organically grown into one of Vancouver’s top events, bringing in tourists from around the world, generating substantial revenue for local restaurants, hotels and other venues.

Local politicians may insult our well-run community event, and complain about the very minimal costs involved, but they are always happy to throw millions of taxpayer dollars at much smaller public events, which usually include all-ages beer gardens. Heck, when the Park Board wants to spend a half-million on weird public art, the public stifles a yawn.

This constant whining about the trivial cost of a huge public event like 4/20 is disgraceful, especially when most of the cost is for an unnecessarily high level of policing. Hopefully since things went so smoothly this year, the VPD won’t see the need to police our event so heavily and at such great expense.

The problems with last year’s 4/20 were mainly due to our incredible popularity, making the Art Gallery ground too crowded, especially on a hot day. By relocating to Sunset Beach, the only civic venue that can accomodate our size, we were able to host a fun, peaceful, safe event for the local community.

When over 100,000 people want to peacefully gather and celebrate their community, the city and park board have a basic civic duty to assist and provide essential services.

The cannabis culture brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to the BC economy every year. A quarter million people across BC are employed by the cannabis industry, and many thousands of tourists come to Vancouver and BC to sample our local dispensaries and enjoy local vapor lounges.

It’s time Vancouver politicians stopped attacking one of our city’s biggest economic engines, and began treating 4/20 with the respect and consideration we have earned.

Note on attendance figures

The width of Sunset Beach Park is about 100 metres. The length is about 400 metres. Video and photo evidence shows that the first 100 metres from the stage had a peak density of about 3.5 people per square metre (meaning 35,000 people). The next 150 metres of booth area had a density of about 3 people per metre (meaning 45,000 people), and the next 150 metres had a density of about 2 people per metre (meaning 30,000 people). A little math shows the peak crowd was therefore around 110,000.

The actual figure is probably higher, as there were many other people in the park and beach area behind the stage, and in other surrounding areas which are not included in these calculations.

Many people left the park between 5 and 7pm, but many new people also entered as the got off work. Video footage and my observations showed a steady stream of newcomers between 5 and 7pm. This after work crowd is estimated to have been an additional 20,000 to 25,000 people. This brings total attendance to over 130,000 for the day.

Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen

Dana Larsen is the author of "Green Buds and Hash" and "Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone" and a well-known Vancouver cannabis activist, businessman and politician. He served ten years as editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, is the co-founder of the Vancouver Seed Bank, founder of the Vancouver Dispensary Society, and Vice President of the Canadian Association of Cannabis Dispensaries. Larsen was a founding member of the BC Marijuana Party and the Canadian Marijuana Party. In 2003 he joined the NDP, running as an NDP candidate in 2008. In 2011, he ran for the Leadership of the BC NDP. Larsen is also founder and director of Sensible BC, Canada’s largest grassroots cannabis reform organization.