Two people hold a modified design of the Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf in in place of the maple leaf during the “4-20 Toronto” rally in Toronto, April 20, 2016. Cannabis activists say although this year’s 4-20 celebrations across the country will likely be the last before recreational pot use becomes legal, there’s still a lot to fight for. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

4-20: Pot activists continue their fight beyond legalization

Cannabis activists say there is still a lot to fight for beyond legalization

Cannabis activists say although this year’s 4-20 celebrations across the country will likely be the last before recreational pot use becomes legal, there’s still a lot to fight for.

The federal government has committed to making marijuana legal by the summer, but the task of regulating the sale and consumption of the drug has been handed down to the provinces and territories.

Lisa Campbell with the Ontario Cannabis Consumer and Retail Alliance said she doesn’t think 4-20 events across the country will disappear with the new legalized system — but they will likely evolve.

RELATED: B.C.’s annual 4-20 protest still relevant

“There is still a lot to fight for, including cannabis lounges, consumption spaces and having special events permits. But there comes a certain point where you can shout from the sidelines or you can put down your protest sign and have a chance to work with government to influence policy,” Campbell said.

“For me and my activism, I’ve gone from fully disobeying the law and civil disobedience to now pausing my illicit activity and trying to find a way to work in the legal market.”

The provinces have been rolling out their plans on regulating legalized pot. Ontario, for instance, intends to sell marijuana to people 19 and older in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Consumption in public spaces or workplaces will be banned.

RELATED: B.C. government marijuana stores will compete with private sellers

Campbell said she wants to see a mixed retail model in the province, with regulated lounges and bars where marijuana can be purchased and consumed.

“The only benefit to government stores is that argument that if you’re going to regulate it like alcohol, that we also need to have all these other licences that we have for alcohol,” Campbell said. “So, for example, at festivals there should be the ability to have a vapour lounge that is like a designated area like a beer garden, where you can purchase and consume cannabis.”

She acknowledges that the province’s Ministry of the Attorney General has finished its consultation on cannabis consumption spaces, and it will take some time before changes are made.

April 20 has long been a day to celebrate cannabis and the culture that surrounds it. In cities such as Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, pot enthusiasts gather by the thousands in public squares, defying the authorities.

But Campbell noted that 4-20 isn’t just about having a massive outdoor smokeout anymore; there are events such as cannabis business speeches from CEOs from publicly traded companies, as well as movie nights with cannabis edibles.

RELATED: Why a 14-year-old will lead the charge at annual marijuana protest on the Hill

She did say, however, that she’s concerned police will crack down harder on this year’s 4-20 events.

“While legalization is exciting, I also think a lot of people are fearful,” she says.

Abi Roach, the owner of Toronto’s Hotbox Cafe, says she has heard similar concerns from customers as police continue to crack down on illegal pot dispensaries in the city ahead of this summer’s legislative change.

She says with legalization looming, her activism will also centre on creating safe public spaces for cannabis consumption and fighting against what she called the “white-collarization of cannabis.

“It’s the corporate takeover of big alcohol, big pharma, big tobacco, now taking over cannabis and creating a business that never really existed, looking for a customer base that isn’t interested in it,” Roach said.

“I think the problem that not only corporations are going to have, but also the government stores, is how do you get my customers — the people we have been serving for the last 18 years — to switch from their current purchasing ways and go to the legal government stores?”

She says governments need to include the current industry, which has been flourishing for decades, into the legal framework.

“And that’s not happening and that’s what we’re fighting for,” she said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police seize nearly 50 kilos of drugs in Surrey

Police say this has taken perhaps millions of deadly doses of fentanyl and other drugs off the streets

ICBC had 32,412 Dial-a-Claim calls from Lower Mainland

This was in a 17-day stretch from Jan. 3 to Jan. 19, inclusive

Surrey Mounties looking for two suspects in stolen credit card scam

Police said the cards were used in $28,000 in fraudulent transactions in Surrey, Burnaby and Coquitlam

Surrey’s Fruiticana, 25 years in, is growing strong

From a humble start to nurturing an 18-store business, Surrey’s Tony Singh looks to open two more this year

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

Convicted Fraser Valley con man facing 39 charges in Vancouver area

Donald Quinnell got four years prison in 2015, again facing fraud, theft, stolen credit card charges

Elderly man in serious condition after being hit by bus in Burnaby

RCMP believe man, 82, was not at a crosswalk at the time

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Surrey teen recalls ‘scary experience’ of falling down Oregon mountain

Gurbaz Singh broke his leg during a 150-metre fall on Dec. 30

Man accused in Kamloops murder claims woman died during rough sex

A Fraser Valley man stands trial for first-degree murder in connection with the 2016 death of a woman

Most Read