OTTAWA—They came, they smoked—they got the munchies.
More than 1,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill yesteray, and thousands more converged in cities elsewhere in Canada, to mark 4/20—a counter-culture celebration of marijuana and a protest against pot laws.
Despite a federal Conservative government bent on punishing illegal drug use, many people openly puffed on the front lawn of Parliament as Mounties and city police watched from a distance.
Francis Pham, a student from Winnipeg, urged Canada’s politicians to embrace marijuana rather than denouncing it as a harmful substance.
“I’ve smoked weed with cops here before, politicians before, doctors, lawyers,” said Pham.
“I’m pretty sure it’s just a social norm to smoke weed everywhere.”
Back in Pham’s hometown, roughly 500 people gathered on the lawn of the Winnipeg legislature to mark 4/20 day as a few shrewd hot dog and ice cream vendors took advantage of the crowd’s altered appetite to make some cash.
In both locations, police watched the crowds but made no arrests.
While many openly smoked up, some sat quietly sharing their pot among friends but kept their names to themselves.
In the shadow of the Peace Tower, an 18-year-old Ottawa student who didn’t want to reveal his identity said he was just grateful that drug enforcement appears to be much less harsh in Canada than in the United States.
“You have to have, like, over a certain amount [of marijuana] here to get charged with trafficking,” he explained.
“Or even possession—if you get caught [in Canada], you’re going home,” he said. “But in the States, if you get caught with a five piece [five grams], you’re going to jail for the night.”
Police were nowhere to be seen in Vancouver where thousands of people converged outside the city’s art gallery to toke up.
Donned in their finest marijuana-leaf attire, the mostly under-30 crowd cheered wildly as free joints were tossed out into the audience. Little baggies openly were traded for cash and marijuana cigarettes were rolled right on the spot.
At 4:21 p.m., a cloudy haze lingered in the sky—with both the art gallery and the city’s Olympic clock proving difficult to spot.
Some who had done their fair share of inhaling spilled out into the busy downtown Vancouver streets, forcing transit supervisors to be called in.
A man who identified himself as Pedro Gonzalez said he came to the event to share in the togetherness.
“That’s what life is about,” he said. “Just take it easy, you know?”