It’s April, and one of the big North American/International pot-party-protests is just around the corner: 4/20 2018 celebrations! But this year is a little bit different and a little bit special. After years of agitating for cannabis freedom, across North America there’s been a wave of recreational legalization.
Canada still looks forward to legal recreational cannabis this summer, although we probably won’t be able to buy it legally for Cannabis Day. Meaning 4/20 2018 may be the last civilly disobedient Canadian protestival for our favourite plant.
How that might affect the various events around the country, the continent, and the world remains to be seen. It’s nice to hope that because of looming Canadian legalization there will be no clashes with police, that news coverage will be positive, and that we’ll all get along in peace and harmony as we pass doobies from one coast to the other.
But hope doesn’t decide how bureaucracy, capitalism, and self-interest or ego will impact giant groups of people. And from Toronto Police Service raids directly after the Liberals’ announced legislation, to Vancouver’s recent history with our cannabis protestivals, things can go so wrong, so strangely, just as we gain ground.
At any large public gathering there will be a police presence. Whether or not it’s a registered festival or protest, on 4/20 they’re watching and waiting to step in. After all, optics matter to “the other team” as much as for cannabis advocates; even for 4/20 2018 celebrations they can’t let “illegal drug users” run wild in public. Think of the children!
But those optics also mean that in the normal course of the day, they will likely let cannabis consumption go, as long as that’s the only law they see being broken.
So on that note, be calm. Because our optics can’t be aggravating an armed police force for no reason. That doesn’t mean let them get away with bad behaviour, but be calm in reacting. And be safe.
This 4/20, there is nothing to gain by rubbing legalization in their faces. And nothing to gain by marking yourself as an agitator to people that are, eventually, going to enforce pot laws that we still don’t agree with.
For 4/20 2018 celebrations we must be calm about the coming legal victory, and not encourage a clash that may end in defeat.
What laws we break is an important consideration when assuming police will keep their interference with 4/20 2018 celebrations minimal. For instance, there were aggressive cops at Cannabis Day 2015, but they started with tickets and they still let people toke. They were angry that the celebration was happening where the city didn’t want it, but they still waited for another excuse to bring out the cuffs.
This year’s Vancouver 4/20 isn’t likely to draw angry, bureaucratic police to Sunset Beach already spoiling for a fight. Hopefully it’s a return of officers focused on traffic and crowd control. But they will be watching closely, very closely, to the ways we act.
So be cool. Don’t get in the way of non-celebrants that are also in the area; beaches, parks, and public spaces are meant for everyone even during a celebration. Don’t hassle them or offer weed. Don’t sell brazenly in front of families. If you smoke or vape, be conscious of whether that’s travelling towards kid-focused areas.
And speaking of kids: DON’T SELL TO THEM. Seriously. If a 14-year-old wants to get high at 4/20, let their older, 18+ cousin/sibling/friend boot for them. Even if you think cannabis is safe because we smoked it at that age, that one sale to help a kid out is damaging to the festival, to advocacy, for optics, and for your fellow sellers. Don’t let the capitalist urge for one more sale be the cause of a cop invasion. Be cool.
Cannabis advocacy, cannabis activism, and the cannabis industry are not monolithic. There are groups within groups, conflicts between groups, and disagreements about what’s best, what’s right, and who’s in charge.
And that’s good. Competitive ideas are how humans best determine their right path. No one should live in an echo chamber. And facing criticism strengthens arguments. So we don’t need to agree. We don’t need to get along. We don’t even need to like each other.
But we do need to be collected. And by that I mean we should present, just for the day, a collective goal and a collective presence. 4/20 isn’t a day to hash out (excuse the pun) whose way is right, who’s the better activist or group, or who’s selling out the community to capitalist industry goals. It’s a day to gather and smoke with your friends, just like 4:20 is the time for it.
Most importantly, if there is police action, be collected in aiding other activists and advocates — regardless of affiliation.
There are going to be death-throws as prohibition ends.
We’ve been surprised by raids when we thought cities would look the other way. We’ve faced hard line cops when we expected peace officers. Even with legalization coming we’ve encountered cities and provinces that do not want to join in that freedom.
So hope for the best, plan for the worst, and be aware of what’s going down around you. 4/20 2018 isn’t the first legal cannabis celebration, it’s the (hopefully) last illegal one. Be wary about what we’ll face.
Featured Image of post-police Cannabis Day 2015 crowd by MaryBeth Lafferty Photography for Twelve High Chicks.