In the late 1990’s celebrating 4/20 in Colorado was barely a whisper spread through college campuses each April. Especially at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where locals claim the original large 4/20 gathering took place in Colorado. Then, being caught either at or coming from or even near the field where the group “toke” was taking place carried heavy consequences as opposed to now, when Coloradans will celebrate the Marijuana holiday for the first time since being legalized in the state of Colorado.
Then, the idea was, if enough people showed up and partook in something then the police could not possibly arrest everybody. Though, at times, they tried. As late as 2012, the university and local police collaborated to shut down these “protests” because the event was tarnishing the school’s image and the City of Boulder. The activity was also illegal.
Back then, the legend stood as it does now, that 4/20 was the police call sign for Marijuana use in Colorado. There is no evidence to back this. Perhaps no one will ever really know why the date April 20 or the time 4:20 became the mark to light up but that hardly matters to anyone who is actually smoking Marijuana at 4:20 on 4/20.
Foul smelling fertilizers were used on school fields where the smokers were known to congregate to keep people from gathering. The measure did not keep smokers from using the field. Reports and rumors that the school would use student identification cards kept on file to identify and expel students who participated abounded. Barricades were even placed around school grounds to keep outsiders from gaining entry. Protest leaders were arrested in front of the crowd before the activity was about to begin.
The authorities and the school claimed “victory” and that any smoking at the assembly had been prevented. Anyone who was there will say these claims are false, a fabrication by officials to discourage further engagements and make pot smokers seem non-resolute.
This year marks the first year of legalized pot in Colorado and the buzz around 4/20 is quite a bit different, even if the high is the same. Anywhere one cares to look in Denver and Boulder are posters promoting concerts, smoking rallies, and the renowned High Times Cannabis Cup, which will be taking place in Denver. The event, taking place in the Denver Mart, is sold out. Attendance at the event will be 40,000. This number only reflects the number of cannabis enthusiasts getting in.
What the Vatican is to Christians on Easter, Colorado has become to pot smokers on April 20. This year they fall on the same day. There are plenty of Christians in Colorado full of ire that marijuana is taking center stage on such a revered day but for the time being, it seems they will have to share the holiday. In the future, 4/20 will only fall on Easter occasionally. Easter, at least, will always be on Sunday. For Christians who smoke pot, though, it is a win-win situation.
Then, Colorado officials did whatever they could to keep outsiders from smoking marijuana at 420 celebrations, and now they welcome throngs of tourists, if not with opened arms, with opened cash registers. The controversy rages on but one thing is certain: Colorado’s 4/20 marijuana celebration will never be the same.
By Joseph Porter