Police not expecting challenges as 420 pot rally occurs on Winnipeg whiteout party day

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Police not expecting challenges as 420 pot rally occurs on Winnipeg whiteout party day

When thousands of Jets fans pour into downtown Winnipeg to watch Game 5 of the NHL playoffs Friday evening, some of the city's marijuana smokers will be marking 420 just a few blocks away — but police say they don't anticipate major challenges.

Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, city workers will shut down southbound Donald Street between Portage and St. Mary avenues for the Winnipeg Whiteout Street Party on Friday afternoon.

With warm, sunny weather and the second round of playoffs in sight, organizers are preparing for as many as 15,000 people to turn up to cheer on the Jets at the event, which will feature food and drink for sale.

Just a few blocks away, another crowd is set to gather at the Manitoba Legislative Building for the annual 420 protest against marijuana prohibition.

For years, people have gathered yearly on April 20 to smoke marijuana on the building's grounds, as a protest against marijuana prohibition. 

Over the past several years, the Winnipeg Police Service has scaled back its presence at the event, and that will continue this year, Const. Rob Carver said.

Police are taking a "hands-off" approach to the protest and aren't expecting challenges, even with the whiteout party nearby, he said.

"What we know has happened in the past is that 420 self-contains. Nobody's leaving 420 and smoking marijuana outside of that area and we expect the same [on Friday]," Carver said.

New rules in Winnipeg forbid smoking on patios anyway, Carver said. Since the entire whiteout area is licensed — basically a "giant patio" from a police perspective, he said — officers have been making sure nobody's lighting up in the whiteout area no matter what.

"Our officers have been very consistent in sending that message in a friendly manner to everyone who's at the party," he said.

"We would expect no different from anyone who's wandering over from 420."

Whiteout in the forecast

The whiteout party itself will start at 4:30 p.m. — two hours before the puck drops and the Winnipeg Jets face off against the Minnesota Wild for the fifth time in this year's NHL playoff series. 

This party, the third one of the series, will extend onto Graham Avenue and add two more viewing screens than it had last time.

The Jets are up 3-1 in the series so far and a win Friday could seal their spot in the second round of the playoffs.

Friday's forecast promises sun and temperatures of 15 C — but one downtown business says no real whiteout is complete without snow.

So Metric Marketing is making some by planting two industrial-size snow machines on top of its Garry Street building to fuel revellers two streets over.

"Everyone downtown — well, across the city — is really stepping it up," said Matt Cohen, creative director of Metric Marketing.

"Anywhere you walk, you see Go Jets Go in the windows, and we thought, 'What can we do to celebrate the Jets and everything the city has to offer?' So we thought we'd make our own whiteout."