The annual 4/20 rally in Denver has become quite an event, especially over the last few years, with recreational marijuana sales being legal in the state. Some even consider Denver the 4/20 capital of the United States; but all that may be coming to an end after circumstances at this year’s rally seemingly got out of hand with long lines, toppled fences and mounds of trash strewn all over Denver’s Civic Center Park.
Things were so bad that they prompted the editorial board at The Denver Post to speak out and urge organizers and revelers to grow up and try not to embody every negative stoner stereotype imaginable. “The list of regrettable and gross misdeeds includes leaving Civic Center – Denver’s front lawn – something of a trash heap for workers, residents and visitors to consider as thanks for our awfully open-minded legal-cannabis system,” they wrote.
Now Denver Parks and Recreation officials have announced their verdict on what went down on 4/20: they have slapped rally organizers with more than $12,000 in fines and have banned the event from taking place in the city or county for the next 3 years.
“After a thorough review of the event, substantial violations of city requirements were found,” said Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation. “We will continue to ensure that events in our parks are safe, compliant and of high quality, and we remain focused on protecting Denver’s parks and facilities which are valuable assets to our city and our residents.”
For their part, rally organizers claim that volunteers did their job and cleaned up all of the trash left behind, but that overnight the full trash bags left in the park for pickup were ripped open by someone, perhaps a homeless person or persons looking for food or cans. They say the city is using that as a pretext to ban an event that promotes a message they don’t like.
Organizers plan on appealing the city’s decision and say they will take the matter to court if necessary. If the ban stands, the “4/20 capital of the U.S.” may be without an official celebration on the holiest of all high holidays for the next few years.
No matter what the outcome, however, things like this reflect poorly on the cannabis community as a whole in the eyes of the public. Whether that is fair in this case is a matter for debate; but the perception is not one that can be ignored. Although some laws are changed, the stigma built up over the last 80+ years still remains in many ways. Many still look down on “stoners” and stories like this simply serve to echo what they already believe.
Mistakes happen and events won’t always go perfectly. But when it comes to public perception, we must remember that – as a community – we have very little room for error.