Colorado kicked off the 420 marijuana holiday weekend with a free rally at Civic Center Park, right on the lawn of the capitol building in Denver. Thousands of people of all ages and walks of life are showing up to listen to music, eat food, and partake in the formerly forbidden fruit that is marijuana.
The origin of the 420 holiday is as hazy as the smoke lingering over it. Allegedly the slang term comes from a group of high school kids from San Rafael, Calif. who would meet up at 4:20pm to smoke a joint after school, others say it was a code used by police. Whatever it comes from, it has moved from a subterranean pulp fiction culture to a mainstream phenomenon.
Miguel Lopez, the founder of Denver’s 420 Rally said that the celebration is about freedom of marijuana culture and to protest federal prohibition, but it is also about creating a positive atmosphere for people to learn and generate informed opinions of the issues that still exist.
Marijuana was legalized in Colorado for recreational use by Amendment 64, which was passed last year and allowed the first ever non-medical cannabis stores as of January 1. One problem event organizers and local police have is that while marijuana is legal for recreational use, it is still illegal to use in public areas. On Saturday, Denver Police issued 25 citations or arrests – 17 of which were for smoking marijuana in public.
According to Lopez, and other organizers, this year’s 420 Rally in Denver is expected to bring as many 80,000 patrons “packing up” the lawns of Civic Center Park celebrating Colorado’s relaxed laws on marijuana. Live musical acts at this years event include Wyclef Jean, B.O.B., DJ Whoo Kid, and many other entertainers and special guest speakers. Mayor Mike Dunafon, of Glendale, Colo., is attending the rally, voicing his issues and inviting supporters of liberty to vote for him in his run for governor of Colorado.
The 420 Rally is only one of many weed events of the weekend, including the Cannabis Cup hosted by High Times Magazine and special events held across the state. Some state and local officials maintain the attitude that Colorado is not becoming the new Amsterdam and does not have a surge of cannabis crazed tourists. It does become rather hard, however, not to notice on a stroll downtown the glassy eyes of some residents stumbling out of hotels and the pungent aroma emanating from alleyways and windows. Procuring pot in Denver is as easy as walking into one of the many recreational dispensaries, showing an ID – of which some dispensaries say up to 75 percent are out-of-state – and choosing from a plethora of THC infused edibles, drinkables, smokeables, and… rub-on-skinables?
While Colorado and Washington are the only states to have legalized marijuana for recreational use, there are currently 21 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized – the still federally illegal drug – for medical use, there are another 12 states pending legislation.
The weather at the Denver 420 Rally could get a bit dodgy, but it is a rain or shine event, so organizers urge supporters coming to the park to plan accordingly. Everyone involved hopes for a peaceful and friendly turnout to downplay the mismanaged events of last year that left two people wounded after gunshots were fired. For those visiting from out-of-town, marijuana may still be illegal in the airport. Some airports including Fort Collins, offer amnesty boxes for those travelers wishing to depart with their 420 treats without consequence. Denver International Airport absolutely prohibits marijuana on premises.
By Cody Long