4/20 Day in Vancouver as USA bogarts BC Bud tourism

As US gets more weed-friendly, will Vancouver lose its stoner-friendly reputation?

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Despite what some may think, marijuana is not legal in British Columbia. It can only be cultivated or consumed for medical purposes, and only then with a government-issued license (For more info, see the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act). Yet still people blaze up in Vancouver. Funny enough, as American attitudes toward weed relax, British Columbia is actually charging more and more people for possession. This costs us over $10 million a year, rather then netting us many times more in tax revenue.

To reverse this trend, Sensible BC champions the Sensible Policing Act, which would decriminalize marijuana in much the same way the province decriminalized long gun ownership a decade ago.

More instances of stoners getting arrested will also serve to chill tourism for events such as 4/20, and that, in turn, is a citywide opportunity cost in terms of tourist revenue. This is all compounded by the fact that it's now easier for marijuana activists, stoners, and the spliff-curious to just take a domestic flight instead, and not bother with a passport or international airport taxes.

As it stands, Seattle is poised to take Vancouver's crown as the Pacific Northwest's most marijuana-friendly big city. Those driving north don't have to deal with the border queues... or the customs agents. Their tourism dollars remain south of the border along with their second-hand smoke.

What would Snoop do?

I was going to ask Snoop Dogg Lion if he'd approve of a public 4/20 celebration, but that seemed pointless. With a claimed consumption of 81 blunts per day, I will presume that he does. Snoop also recommends that you not limit yourself to celebrating 4/20 to just one day per year. However, local law enforcement are highly unlikely to accept a note from Snoop as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Snoop will not be present in Vancouver for 4/20... he'll be in Denver, Colorado, USA. The same country that ordered Canadian police to arrest and extradite marijuana legalization activist and former cannabis seed seller Marc Emery (as much a political move as a law-enforcement exercise). Canada did as it was told, and now Emery is in an American prison. Just as a thought exercise, what if the US snaps its fingers again? Could it get BC (or Canada as a whole) to revisit its drug policy with an eye toward regulation, and, by extension, taxation?

Time will tell if British Columbia will lose out on tourism over an event that requires so relatively little organization. Vancouver isn't like Nimbin, NSW, a small town whose relationship to marijuana culture keeps it alive; still, we must acknowledge that Vancouver makes money from people who smoke weed: these visitors book hostels and hotels, they go out for meals... and they surely eat lots of snack food.

Really, this is about how the legit economy goes about getting a piece of all that weed money while diminishing the incentive for British Columbians to work in the illegal drug trade.

A related question (or perhaps the elephant in the room) would be, does Vancouver as a city want the reputation as a marijuana mecca if given the choice?

4/20 since the 1970s: The next episode

In case you didn't already know, the term "four-twenty" originated in the late 1970s in San Rafael, California (where "American Graffiti" was filmed). At the time, a certain Nate Dogg would have been maybe ten years old. It would be a few years before he'd move to California and make a career in the music industry. Soon thereafter, he would go on to work with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre on "The Next Episode"... and become globally famous for this phrase:

(Top image via US National Archives)

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