In an ironic twist brought about by marijuana legalization, the city of Denver might crack down harder than in years past during this year’s 4/20 celebration — a day marked by tens of thousands of people smoking pot in Civic Center Park.
The event used to be held to protest laws criminalizing marijuana smoking. Denver has typically been home to one of the largest gatherings in the United States and cops generally looked the other way while people blatantly broke state and federal law by sparking up at 4:20 p.m. (and for several hours beforehand).
But with the eyes of the world on Colorado since its voters legalized marijuana in 2012 — and with pot available at retail stores throughout the state as of Jan. 1 — organizers of the rally fear that Denver officials will issue more citations this year in order to show the federal government it is enforcing the new law.
Smoking marijuana in public is illegal, even under Colorado’s permissive new law.
Outspoken pro-marijuana attorney Robert Corry tried to pre-empt a crackdown with a letter to the Denver City Council claiming that once a permit is granted to the 4/20 organizers to use the park, the park will then be under their control. And according to his reading of Amendment 64, that allows organizers to permit pot smoking.
“It is important for public servants to recognize fact, and live in the world of reality,” his letter continued. ”And the reality is that on April 20, in Denver’s Civic Center Park, there is nothing that the City, nor the Denver Police, nor the Rally organizers, can do within reason in a Free County to stop thousands of people from consuming marijuana, in that space, on that day. It is patently obvious to anyone that has paid attention over the past ten years that, in that place, on that day, marijuana will be consumed by thousands of people.”
“4/20 has become a unique cultural event,” he wrote. ”It is a Marijuana Holiday. Attempts to stop such reality would be unwise, wasteful, excessive, unnecessary, potentially dangerous, and would contribute to an erosion of public respect for law enforcement.”
But far from making the city council back down, it led one councilman to threaten to revoke the permit and take the matter to court.
“If we’re going to take it to court at some point,” councilman Charlie Brown told the Denver Post, “we might as well do it this year.”
Corry has since rescinded his letter and issued another.
“Our letter, though inartfully drafted, was a reaction to provocative statements about an alleged Police crackdown this year at 420,” he wrote. “We realize now that we should not have taken that bait, and instead should have conducted ourselves on a higher plane.”
Corry told the Denver magazine Westword that this year’s celebration will be conducted in “the exact same manner as past years.”
Whether rescinding the “inartfully drafted” letter has satisfied the city council remains to be seen; the Denver city attorney wants 4/20 organizers to notify attendees that it is illegal to smoke pot in public, according to the Post.
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