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A sign celebrates the day at the Botana Care marijuana store just before opening the doors to customers for the first time in Northglenn, Colorado January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking A sign celebrates the day at the Botana Care marijuana store just before opening the doors to customers for the first time in Northglenn, Colorado January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking  

Denver girds for epic 4/20 celebration

Denver’s city council finally approved the annual 4/20 celebration of all things marijuana, issuing a permit to festival organizers after they agreed to discourage public consumption of the drug and post signs reminding attendees that lighting up in public is illegal.

April 20 has long been a day of marijuana amnesty as thousands of people gather to smoke pot in public to protest its continued prohibition under both federal and local laws. With so many people breaking the law, cops have historically focused on public safety and dispersing the crowd once it’s over, rather than citing people for pot use. Denver has historically been home to one of the largest gatherings in the country.

But since Colorado voters legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults in 2012 and began selling it from retail stores in January, 4/20 this year is expected to be more of a celebration of how activists and voters are beginning to foster legal acceptance of the substance.

Organizers locked horns with city officials, however, after asking them to approve of 4/20’s keystone event — marijuana smoking. Amendment 64, which legalized pot in Colorado, specifically prohibits firing up in public. Even though that’s been overlooked in years past, city officials drew the line at giving the practice an official nod and threatened to withhold a permit for the gathering unless organizers publicly disavowed it.

City officials and organizers compromised, however, with festival organizers agreeing to post the rules at the event and remind attendees that pot smoking in public is illegal, according to the Denver Post. Police tell the paper that officers will treat the gathering the same as in years past, without an emphasis on citing smokers, but on public safety.

With sales of legal pot underway for the past three months, the 4/20 gathering is expected to be among the largest in the city’s history, with live music and vendors throughout the weekend of April 19-20.

Hotels.com reported on Thursday that searches for hotels in Denver for that weekend increased by 73 percent over the previous year. The city has seen a 25 percent increase in searches for hotels overall this year, since the start of legal marijuana sales.

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