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Hundreds gather amid cannabis smoke for post-legalization 4/20

Clouds of smoke wafted into the air at 4:20 p.m. Saturday as hundreds gathered on the B.C. legislature lawn to smoke pot, marking the first 4/20 event since recreational cannabis was legalized in October.
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Jacq Kittel smokes cannabis at 4:20 pm in front of the B.C. legislature. April 20, 2019

Clouds of smoke wafted into the air at 4:20 p.m. Saturday as hundreds gathered on the B.C. legislature lawn to smoke pot, marking the first 4/20 event since recreational cannabis was legalized in October.

While some were there to celebrate, organizers say that as far as cannabis laws are concerned, the struggle continues.

“In some ways we’ve entered into a new phase of prohibition 2.0, where instead of being outright prohibited we’re told the limit is 30 grams,” said Ted Smith, founder of the Cannabis Buyer’s Club and master of ceremonies.

Federal regulations allow a person age 18 or older to carry up to 30 grams of cannabis in public.

Smith said he already knows of one man caught with three times the 30-gram limit who was given a 10-month jail sentence.

“There’s a four-plant limit for a household and that limit is absurd for all sorts of reasons, including when you look at the potential for hemp seed.”

April 20 is one day of the year where pot smokers have traditionally gathered to smoke cannabis in public in defiance of laws prohibiting it.

Now, the only law being broken by sparking up a joint is the Capital Regional District’s Clean Air Bylaw.

That too should change, Smith said.

“We all should have the ability to go to a lounge here in Victoria to smoke cannabis but the Clean Air Bylaw will not allow that.

At the legislature lawn, the Clean Air Bylaw was no impediment on Saturday. Great clouds of pungent cannabis smoke rose from the crowd when pipes, bongs and joints were fired up as Smith counted down to 4:20.

Smith bemoaned the corporate takeover of the marijuana industry since legalization, saying that all kinds of opportunities to promote the vaunted B.C. Bud — from retail sales to pot tourism — are being lost.

“We have a vested industry here that’s being shut out of this new marketplace. ... You should be able to go around the Cowichan Valley and visit local grow ops. They’d have a little place where you could buy some food and a drink and smoke some herb right there.”

In the crowd, some said life was easier before legalization. “Before we could just slip around the corner and smoke a joint. Now everybody is policing it where nobody really cared before,” said Wendy Kay.

“It became legal but it became like drinking and driving. So now everybody is like, ‘Are you smoking and driving?’ That end of things really changed.”

Tammy Moffatt agreed, saying now she’s uncertain about how much pot she can carry.

“I’m more paranoid now that it’s legal smoking in public. That’s why I’m here.”

Urban myth has long held that 4/20 was a term for smoking pot adopted by potheads after they learned 420 was he police code for Marijuana Smoking in Progress.

Not so says the Urban Dictionary, noting there is no police code for smoking pot.

“4:20 was the time of day some stoners at San Rafael High in Northern California would get together every day after school to smoke weed and get high.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com