Vancouver police say no large 420 event planned as cannabis celebration goes virtual

Vancouver police say while there is no organized event for 420 this Monday, they are monitoring locations where smaller groups of people may gather for the pot celebration despite physical distancing measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Every year, thousands of cannabis enthusiasts light up at the annual 420 celebrations in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood.

This year, instead of vendors and participants coming together in large crowds at Sunset Beach, a virtual 420 is being hosted on the Pot TV and Cannabis Life Network websites.

Police say they still expect some people will gather to promote the event, which organizers have described for years as a pro-cannabis protest.

“There is no group or area that has organized for any specific location, but we will be monitoring the traditional locations of Sunset Beach and the art gallery,” said Sgt. Aaron Roed in a statement emailed to CBC News. “VPD officers will also be monitoring any location that may pop up as a grouping location.”

VPD would not release its specific plans to deal with any protesters violating physical distancing for security reasons, but said advice from public health officials against large gatherings is still in effect.

“Social distancing measures still apply and for health and safety we are encouraging people to stay at home and to continue to practice the measures already in place.”

Last year, police reported about 60,000 people attended the event, with 400 vendor tents set up.

There were 14 medical emergencies at the event, but no major incidents.

Every year, the Vancouver Park Board has denied organizers a permit, citing the bylaw against smoking in city parks. In 2019, the board passed a motion asking organizers to cancel a concert by popular group Cypress Hill, in an effort to control crowd size.