WATCH: Thousands toke up at Victoria 420 pro-pot protest as federal government announces a date for new marijuana legislation. Tess van Straaten reports.
Victoria’s Centennial Square started filling with smoke before lunchtime, as pro-pot protesters gathered for 420.
“Here in Victoria we have a very proud, very dedicated group of people that use cannabis so it doesn’t surprise me,” says Victoria 420 protest organizer Ted Smith.
It’s been two decades since these mass smoke-ins started, with the first events in Vancouver and Victoria.
It’s now grown into a world-wide phenomenon, with people jointly lighting up at 4:20 pm on April 20th in support of legalizing marijuana. And this year, pot proponents in Canada finally have something to celebrate.
“We will be introducing legislation in the Spring of 2017 that ensures that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals,” federal health minister Jane Philpott announced at the United Nations on 420 during a special session on global drug policy.
The Trudeau government says the aim is to minimize harm and those gathered in Victoria couldn’t be happier.
“It’s incredible news to have, especially on April 20th,” says Smith. “It’s like Christmas for us already so this is the biggest present in the world.”
Polls say most British Columbians are in favour of regulating and taxing marijuana and several U.S. States have already made it legal. But it’s not yet clear what form the Canadian legislation will take.
Concerns about where pot will be sold once legalized in Canada
At Victoria’s Trees Dispensary, which is also holding a big 420 party, they’re cautiously optimistic.
“I think the government has heard the people,” Alex Robb of Trees Dispensary says. “I wasn’t expecting an announcement today but I wasn’t surprised either because the Liberals are savvy to cannabis culture.”
Trees is one of 32 dispensaries in Victoria, making the B.C. Capital ‘Canada’s pot shop capital’ but there are lots of questions about what will be in the new legislation.
“I am concerned about what form it might take,” Robb says. “There’s been lots of rumblings about whether it will be sold in liquor stores or what kind of retail outlets will be selling it.”
Back at City Hall, as thousands of people freely toke up, it’s clear the decades of protest have been heard and for once, their fight isn’t going up in smoke.