More than 1,000 revellers light up Edmonton 420 rally

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More than 1,000 revellers light up Edmonton 420 rally

An upbeat, mellow mood drifted along with the smoke across the Alberta legislature grounds Thursday as more than 1,000 people joined the annual 420 marijuana celebration.

"It soothes people, it calms people," participant James Bowers said, describing why he likes weed.

"When everyone gets together like this, it's just nothing but a great time. Everybody's happy," he said. "Seems like the world's perfect and there's no problems." 

There was just one blip in the near-utopian afternoon.

Medical and recreational users alike flock to the 420 event. But those using cannabis for medical purposes asked the Alberta government if they could use the stage at the south side of the legislature grounds to give speeches.

The United Cannabis Coalition said that while the government allows other non-profit groups to use the stage, their group was denied.

"We're still being criminalized even though we're fully legal and allowed to have our medicine," argued UCC member Sheldon Boulet, who uses medical marijuana to treat arthritic pain in his back.

A statement from Alberta Infrastructure acknowledged the ministry refused the UCC use of the stage. 

"Although changes are forthcoming, cannabis is still an illegal substance," said the statement from spokesperson Jessica Lucenko. "Authorizing the use of the stage would imply endorsement from the Government of Alberta, which is inappropriate.

"We know 4-20 brings in a lot of people to the Legislature grounds, and government staff do bring in porta-potties to help mitigate issues we've experienced in the past."

Boulet lamented that there's still a stigma attached to medical marijuana, even though it's a sanctioned substance.

"Back in the day, it used to be illegal to be homosexual, for example, and now we have a gay pride parade," Boulet said.

"Laws change, attitudes changes, and that's our goal is to try to change attitudes."

One thing likely not to change is 420 itself. 

With the legalization of pot just over a year away, some questioned whether there would be any need for an official day to celebrate marijuana.

"I wish it was more than once a year," Bowers said.

Participant Carlyne Caza believes 420 will never fizzle out.

"Everybody likes to come here because it's a social event."