News Local

Is 4/20 still necessary?

By Steve Burgess

A bag full of marijuana joints for sale during the annual 4/20 pro-marijuana rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver on April 20, 2014. (Carmine Marinelli/Vancouver 24hours file photo)

A bag full of marijuana joints for sale during the annual 4/20 pro-marijuana rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver on April 20, 2014. (Carmine Marinelli/Vancouver 24hours file photo)

The Trudeau government has announced plans to legalize marijuana next year. At last, the long battle has been won. I guess there's no more need for the big 4/20 protest rally Thursday at English Bay. They can cancel it now. Right?

Wrong again, Captain Thursday. The party will go on. Marijuana activists will tell you that the annual pot-smoking orgy is still necessary since the proposed legislation does not go far enough and there are still battles to be fought. But 4/20 has always been more party than protest, at least since the first one or two of them went off with no mass arrests. The crowds that will pack the waterfront on Thursday are not exactly like fearless youth taking to the Moscow streets to defy the Putin regime. 4/20 is basically Oktoberfest, if there was some old law on the books banning lederhosen.

I support the legalization of marijuana. In a society where alcohol is sold by the government and cigarettes still kill millions there is no morally defensible justification for making marijuana illegal. Many people use it responsibly and I support their right to do so. As a former heavy drinker and pot smoker, I know which intoxicant caused me more problems—alcohol is by far the more dangerous. One of the arguments against pot was that a criminal record will be an anchor around your leg and I hope those days are almost gone (although crossing the U.S. border will still be an issue). We should all be free to choose.

But I am no fan of marijuana either, and the 4/20 celebration always makes me uneasy. Take a stroll through the crowd on Thursday and—assuming you don't get as thoroughly baked as a hash brownie yourself—have a look around. Whatever else 4/20 might be, it can function as a cautionary example.

Many of the attendees seem like they are having wholesome fun. But if I was still a bright-eyed youth, I might be inclined to observe some of the smoked brisket on parade and decide that other leisure activities hold more promise. They say we all turn into our parents eventually—mine could never understand my desire to take drugs. Now I understand their puzzlement and concern. Even without kids of my own I have gone full Dad on the pot issue. There are better ways to have fun. But if you're going to 4/20 anyway, at least pick up your Doritos bags and try not to pee on the beach.