‘Ev­ery­thing beau­ti­ful’ at 4-20 pot rally

Times Colonist - - The Capital and Vancouver island - MICHAEL D. REID Times Colonist

Fly­ing a Cana­dian flag in cel­e­bra­tion, Bar­rett Black­wood re­flected on a time when the prospect of hundreds of pot smok­ers gath­er­ing in Cen­ten­nial Square to col­lec­tively par­take would have been out of the ques­tion.

“This is un­prece­dented to me, to be here and see no po­lice,” said Black­wood, 43. “When I first came here [from Nanaimo] in 1980, you couldn’t come to this square and have a cig­a­rette, let alone a joint. The po­lice sta­tion was right there [on Fis­gard street] and they’d come through the parkade and shoo you away.”

Black­wood was among sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple who gath­ered at Cen­ten­nial Square on Thurs­day for the an­nual “4-20” cel­e­bra­tion of pot — on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. The ori­gin of the in­ter­na­tional gath­er­ing and its tim­ing is lost to the haze of his­tory.

He was ac­com­pa­nied by his son Ben, 23, and Princess Chica, his tiny cream-coloured chi­huahua. “She’s here to sup­port our 4-20friendly mayor and wants to cam­paign for her re-elec­tion,” he said, not­ing Chica, one of many dogs in the crowd, is a cannabis ad­vo­cate with a Twit­ter ac­count and 1,000 fol­low­ers.

Cen­ten­nial Square was a sea of colour with a happy vibe, at­tract­ing peo­ple of all ages, wear­ing cannabis cos­tumes, 4-20 but­tons, wav­ing flags and re­leas­ing bub­bles. It was a very or­derly crowd, said Foot­prints Se­cu­rity guard Hen­ri­ette Fraik. “There have been no prob­lems at all. Ev­ery­thing’s been beau­ti­ful,” she said as the crowd thinned out at 5 p.m.

“Iron­i­cally, the big­gest prob­lems in the past were from a cou­ple of peo­ple who were drink­ing,” said cannabis ac­tivist Bill Ste­wart.

Thurs­day’s crowd, in ad­di­tion to be­ing high on pot, was high on the news that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment wants to make recre­ational use of mar­i­juana le­gal by July 2018.

“The fact we’ve fi­nally done this is in it­self a tremen­dous vic­tory, and they’ve rec­og­nized the right to grow at home,” said Ste­wart, who uses cannabis to help him cope with chronic pain in his hip and right knee, which he has suf­fered since be­ing struck by a pickup truck. “The grow con­di­tions are lu­di­crous but it’s a start.”

Josh Touchie, 23, said it didn’t sur­prise him that there didn’t ap­pear to be much of a po­lice pres­ence. “They have big­ger con­cerns with other drugs around they need to fo­cus on like fen­tanyl, drugs that are killing peo­ple,” said Touchie, who uses cannabis to con­trol seizures aris­ing from his brain tu­mour.

One of the most colour­ful char­ac­ters was Carol Francey, 68, a re­tired school­teacher. Dressed like a green gi­ant mar­i­juana plant leaf in a brown pot, she wan­dered through the crowd wish­ing par­tic­i­pants a “Happy 4-20!” and hand­ing out colour­ful stick­ers.

“I’ve been in­volved with fam­i­lies my whole life and I know that cannabis is less harm­ful, of course, than al­co­hol and it uni­fies the com­mu­nity. This is a great com­mu­nity and it’s an op­por­tu­nity to come out and lessen the stigma and al­low peo­ple to be them­selves and make a wiser choice in many ways.”

DAR­REN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Becca Bishop lights up at a 4-20 pot rally in Cen­ten­nial Square when the clock struck 4:20 p.m. Thurs­day.

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