City councillor wants Vancouver to take legal action against 420 organizers

City councillor wants Vancouver to take legal action against 420 organizers

A Vancouver councillor wants the city to consider suing the organizers of the annual 420 cannabis festival to recover all costs incurred by the city.

Coun. Melissa De Genova will be making a motion at Tuesday's meeting, that if passed, would "direct staff to review options for legal action ... to recover costs for resources allocated by The City of Vancouver."

The motion also asks staff to consider taking action against any businesses, organizations or people who provide equipment or services to Saturday's event, including any vendor who purchases a booth, and talent and booking agencies that supply talent to the show.

De Genova' motion asks council to "acknowledge concern for the impact the '420 Vancouver Protest Festival & Farmer's Market' annual event has on the ability of the City of Vancouver to be able to provide resources to all protests, demonstrations, civic events and emergency situations within the City of Vancouver operating budget."

The 420 celebration is expected to draw thousands of people to Sunset Beach, and will feature a free concert by the hip hop group Cypress Hill. Every year, the Vancouver Park Board denies organizers a permit, citing the bylaw against smoking in city parks.

Last year, a reported 40,000 people attended, and the city says it invoiced organizers for more than $230,000 to cover the costs of sanitation, staffing for police and firefighters, damage to the park's grass, and lost revenues and parking. Organizers paid about $63,000.

The website for 420 Vancouver lists 173 spaces to be rented by vendors for up to $1,000 each.

Organizer Dana Larsen said he doesn't believe the motion will pass, arguing that 420 is a protest and protests don't normally pay for policing. He disputed the idea that the event no longer counts as a protest now that cannabis is legal.

"We are violating every cannabis law, openly and peacefully and transparently, but they say we're not a protest. I don't understand what is not a protest about civil disobedience in this massive kind of way," Larsen told CBC.

He said the organizers expect to reimburse the city for about $65,000 this year.