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Media Release: Melbourne Legalise Advocates To Join International Cannabis Celebrations on Saturday, April 20



MPs and advocates for the legalisation of cannabis will join the international 420 cannabis celebrations on Saturday, April 20, gathering in Flagstaff Gardens from 2pm. 

Following heavy handed policing at last year’s event, Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP David Ettershank is appealing to Victoria Police to use their discretionary powers on the day, and show forbearance and compassion to the community. 

“We want cannabis legalised, so police do not have to prosecute people for growing and possessing a plant. This would free up police time so officers can get on with real police work, like keeping Victorian women and men safe from violent crime. We hear that VicPol are underfunded, that morale is low, and police Workcover claims are at an all-time high,"

“Around 9,000 Victorians are arrested for personal possession each year. Let’s change the law, and stop wasting police time and resources."

Policing of last year’s event found to be ‘excessive’ by legal centre 

The Fitzroy Legal Centre last year described policing of the annual event as ‘excessive’, and documented: 

  • about 100 police officers including members of the Public Order Response Team  
  • drug detection dogs 
  • multiple public order response vehicles 
  • a police truck ,a police bus and a mobile van office with computers 
  • multiple marked and unmarked vehicles parked inside the gardens, and  
  • two police tents that were erected on site and used for processing arrested persons. 

The legal centre also recorded multiple people being handcuffed by police, even though the individuals appeared to be compliant, cooperative and agreeable. 

The centre said police initiated searches for smoking cigarettes and continued at least one search after a person had produced their prescription for medicinal cannabis. 

The centre raised concerns that Victoria Police engaged professional misconduct and were overheard using derogatory, stigmatising, and unprofessional language such as “they’re just a bunch of druggies” and “look at these junkies dancing”.  

End discrimination against medical cannabis consumers 

Mr Ettershank said another goal of the Melbourne 420 Event was to end discrimination against medical cannabis consumers. 

“This is a legitimate form of treatment first recognised by Victorian medical authorities in 2016,” he said. 

“And yet people prescribed cannabis are discriminated again today, and can still lose their licence under Victorian law if THC traces are present in their system, and this can occur up to a month after consumption.” 

Mr Ettershank said Legalise Cannabis Victoria had pushed for a study to look at whether Medicinal cannabis users are safe to drive with tetrahydrocannabinol still detectable.   

The history of 420 events internationally and in Melbourne 

Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP Rachel Payne said April 20 – the fourth month of the year and 20th day of the month – is the date cannabis has been celebrated around the world since 1971. 

“Urban myth is that 420 was previously the Californian police code for cannabis infringements, and 4.20pm was also the time when the young and renowned San Rafael growers daily met,” she said. 

“For more than a decade thousands of cannabis enthusiasts have been gathering in Flagstaff Gardens for picnics, music and fun activities, with just a handful of police watching on. 

“But in 2022 this changed, with police adopting a zero-tolerance approach and aggressive policing as outlined in the Fitzroy Legal Service Report FLS-Report-on- Victoria-Police-Operation-at-Melbourne-420-rally-2023-final.pdf

“This was in sharp contrast to dozens of other events held across Australia where police universally adopted a low-profile approach, and no arrests were made.” 

Ms Payne said she hoped the legal and peaceful celebration in the Flagstaff Gardens would not be disrupted by overly zealous policing on Saturday.   

“Event organisers have a Public Event Permit from the City of Melbourne,” she said.  

“From New York to California, Berlin to Amsterdam, cannabis fans will gather for picnics, music and fun activities. The problem for Melbourne consumers is that our state government has failed to decriminalise cannabis use."

“Consumers in Canberra are not prosecuted for possessing cannabis for personal use or growing two plants, but in Victoria the cannabis laws are draconian and outdated.” 

Ms Payne said polls consistently found that the majority of Australians want the drug decriminalised.

“Good people get hurt by bad, outdated laws and we certainly don't want to see the police be heavy-handed at a celebration that is about a plant,” she said. 

“If you are bringing your medicinal cannabis to 420, please ensure you have it in the container provided by your dispenser, a copy of your script and ID.” 

The 420 in the Park event is sponsored by Legalise Cannabis Victoria, the Greens, Georgie Purcell and Libertarians Victoria. 

Mr Ettershank and Ms Payne called on Victorian police to work with event organisers and avoid arrests and conflict. 

“We urge the leaders of Victoria and the police to look to Canada, most US states, Germany, and many other parts of Europe where cannabis consumption has been decriminalised,” Mr Ettershank said. 

“Clearly the times are changing,” Ms Payne said. 

  • 420 in the Park will be held in the Flagstaff Gardens on Saturday 20 April from 2pm to 5.30pm with MPs speaking from 3.30pm and a countdown to 4.20pm. 

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