High Times on Parliament Hill

Through Rain, Hail, Sleet or Snow – That 4/20 Joint Will Burn

Photos by Corey Pool

Staggered cheers and clouds of smoke wafted from a sea of umbrellas in Ottawa as the Peace Tower struck 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday. Hundreds of marijuana aficionados took part in the annual gathering in the nation’s capital, filling the front lawn of Parliament Hill.

Despite the soggy weather, a faithful contingent of pot-smoking Ottawans assembled on the hill. Djembes, boom boxes, blankets and ganja were covered with umbrellas and tarps this year, proving a little rain wouldn’t keep weed-lovers from having a high time.


Political proponents of weed were represented too, with members of the Marijuana Party and the Green Party donning banners in support of the peaceful protest.

“It’s not right that a kid would go to jail for years for possession,” said a Green Party representative on the hill. She spoke out against the S-10, a bill Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are pushing that would legislate the minimum sentencing of marijuana offenders.

“If Harper gets a majority, it’s going to happen. Maybe with the Liberals it would be better,” she said. The Green Party supports not only the decriminalization, but also the legalization of pot.


Rain on My Parade
An Ottawa 4/20 by Corey Pool

Waking up to the sounds of hail, wind and rain beating against my window was not an encouraging start to my 4/20. However, amidst gray clouds and nearly freezing temperatures, I was quickly reminded by my younger brother that I would be “a total pussy” if I didn’t get myself together and start our pilgrimage to Parliament Hill.

First stop: Major’s Hill Park. Major’s Hill is a big grassy field perched high above the Ottawa River, and set directly adjacent to Parliament Hill. Four-twenty celebrations are typically shared between the two parks, with Major’s collecting most of the spill-over and late arrivals.


By the time that we arrived at Major’s Hill, mother nature had already claimed two of our four umbrellas, my boots were ankle deep with water, and our first stock of munchies was entirely depleted.

Walking up the steps and onto the hill, a few scattered groups of raincoats were all huddled together, a tarp had been set up to give shelter to a handful of 4/20 diehards, and two little tents crammed with people echoed with hysterical laughter, as smoke billowed out the sides.


Not more than 10 minutes into our endearing little display, eight police officers dressed in fluorescent yellow raincoats came strutting out onto to the field.

“Open up, it’s the police,” the officers warned people inside their tents. “You guys can’t set up tents here; this is a federal park.”

Confused, annoyed and quite stoned, impressively large groups of kids began tumbling out of their tents like clowns emerging from a tiny car, one after the other after the other.

“Man, I just paid 100 bucks for this thing!,” one disgruntled tent-owner shouted, as he too rolled back into the rain.

By 3:00 p.m., the cops had systematically cleared Major’s Hill Park, and all of the approximately 30 disappointed diehards trudged their way to their nearest shelters.


Umbrellas and High Hopes (This Umbrella is Kush, Man)

By 4:00 p.m., however, all fears of a bad turnout were totally extinguished by the busloads of enthusiastic guys and gals that began flooding Rideau Street, racing toward Parliament Hill with flags, banners, and painted faces, publicly smoking joints and cheering, “Happy 4/20!”

As the Peace Tower clock struck 4:20 p.m., the crowd, now reaching 500 plus in attendance, began a slow but enthusiastic drawn-out cheer as a thick grey cloud of sweet and heavy Mary Jane smoke filled the air and shrouded Parliament Hill.

The crowd was full of eccentric and enthusiastic supporters. Young and old came together; some dressed in bright colours or adorned themselves with marijuana flags, while others painted their faces or danced about, playing kazoos.

One guy even used the eternal flame to light his impressive blunt. Most importantly, everyone was passing joints and friendly 4/20 praises.


By nightfall, small pockets of 4/20 supporters could still be found in nearby bars and coffee shops. We found ourselves, late in the evening, sitting at a table with the Marijuana Party at The Lafayette bar, cheers-ing over the day’s unlikely success.

Despite the excessive rain, hail, freezing temperatures and killjoy police officers, pot-loving enthusiasts all over Ottawa shook the stigma that stoners are forgetful, lazy and passive yesterday.


They proved they can band together for a cause—at least if that cause is getting high.