Not risking health issues, 4/20 cannabis protest, festival goes online

Organizers are hosting a virtual event on the Pot TV and Cannabis Life Network websites, starting at 11:50 a.m. PT on Monday.

Passing joints with strangers at a massive outdoor gathering this 4/20 would not be cool in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so organizers of the Vancouver festival and protest are taking it online Monday.

The event, in its 26th year, was cancelled last month when it became clear that a large gathering would not be safe because of the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Pot celebrants typically enjoy a market, live entertainment, speeches against prohibition and a group smoking event at 4:20 p.m. Attendance last year at Sunset Beach reached around 60,000 people at its peak, according to police.

This year, they are instead urged to visit the Pot TV and Cannabis Life Network websites for a virtual, official 420 Vancouver event starting at 11:50 a.m. on Monday (4:20 p.m. in Newfoundland).

Cannabis activists will join viewers in celebrating 4:20 p.m. as it reaches local time zones coast to coast. There will also be music and clips from past events.

Organizer Dana Larsen said the event will use the popular video conferencing app Zoom, where there will be “a lot of people smoking cannabis on the screen together” when the clock strikes 4:20 p.m.

“4/20 is not just about Sunset Beach,” he said. “It’s about a spirit and gathering together to celebrate cannabis. We can do that online as best we can.”

Larsen said it’s likely that the “Cannabis Day” event on July 1 will also be held online this year, given the need for physical distancing during the pandemic.

But if “some normalcy” returns to the world, 4/20 will be back at the beach for 2021, Larsen said.

“When it comes to stuff like this, we’ll persist in the face of political challenges but not in this kind of health situation,” he said. “You’ve got to be responsible and not have an event happening outdoors. It’s very strange but we’re going to make the best of it and I think it’ll be fun.”

Larsen said people who want to join can visit for more details. The event will also be broadcast on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Meantime, B.C. Cannabis Stores warns people not to share joints, vapes, pipes or bongs during the pandemic.

“You may be passing more than you think,” the government pot retailer says on its website.

“Reports are that COVID-19 may spread through respiratory droplets released when you speak, cough or sneeze, and is also left on shared items and surfaces such as forks and glasses — or joints, vapes, pipes and bongs.

“You may contract the virus by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, either by putting them in your mouth, or by touching them and then touching your face, especially your mouth, nose or eyes.”

The Ministry of Attorney General says B.C. Cannabis Stores saw an increase in sales around mid-March when the province declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

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