Unlike the hail that Ottawa was graced with the previous year, the weather on 420 was beautiful. It was sun shining, sunglass sporting, t-shirt wearing weather. This year, thousands flocked to Parliament Hill in support of cannabis legalization and regulation. Our small group of five people arrived at 2 PM and groups of people had already circled-up and set up their spaces. Most were sitting and smoking, but others were hooping, dancing, and doing poi; everyone was enjoying the beautiful day. We quickly moved to the front right-hand side of the lawn, set up our circle, laid down blankets and got cozy.
The atmosphere was in so many words – chill. Everyone was calm, laughing, and having a nice day with their friends, enjoying the sun, and smoking marijuana without the fear of being arrested. People were smoking bongs, joints, blunts, and pipes in protest of the current laws prohibiting marijuana. Although there were RCMP officers surrounding the Hill, there was no sense of urgency or tension in the air – no violence or anger. It was a peaceful day filled with beautiful, happy people.
Landing on Easter this year, I was curious to how big the turnout would be, but it was wonderful. No only did thousands of people attend, but so did many Easter bunnies. Some people came in costume, posing for pictures and sharing the fun with others on the Hill. One came decked out in a full bunny suit, giving out Easter eggs filled with candy to people all over the Hill. Bringing candy of our own, we invited the Easter Bunny to sit with us and enjoy some treats and share the rest of the day with us. Everyone was gracious and happy to be surrounded by the sunshine and be able to enjoy their day smoking and hanging out with their friends (new and old).
There was a great sense of community on the Hill and we particularly felt that sense of community within our own circle, which expanded to include the Easter Bunny, friends of friends, and late arrivals to the festivities. Our circle had expanded from a humble five people at 2:30 PM to fifteen people by 4:00 PM.
The festivities took place until 5 PM with speeches, music and performing acts taking place from 3 PM to 4 PM. The MC for this year’s event was none other than Precious Chong – the daughter of the one and only Tommy Chong. She was situated on the stairs that lead to the parliament buildings at the end of the Hill. From where we were sitting the speeches were unintelligible. The speakers were quiet and to hear properly you had to walk up to the very front (15 feet away). Precious Chong spoke openly about her use of marijuana and ending the prohibition of cannabis in this country. She was very political in her speech with a focus on voting out Harper in the next federal election, although she did not say who to vote for.
The Hill started to get very crowded around 4 PM, with people squeezing in for the countdown to 4:20 PM. It was 4:15 PM when I checked my phone for the time – it was almost here. By 4:18 PM everyone was standing in protest with arms, bongs, joints, pipes, vapes, and blunts in the air ready to light up when the clock struck 20 past. When 4:20 PM hit everyone lit up and a cloud of smoke filled the air; people were taking turns cheering and smoking – cause you can’t do both at once. Most of the crowd was gone by 4:45 PM as no one was permitted on the Hill past 5pm with paraphernalia. Not only did I have a wonderful time with my friends, but I also made some new ones like the Easter Bunny and many others who shared my view. Everyone left laughing with their friends and the enjoyment extended to the ride home.