Denver’s 420 celebration didn’t go down quite as planned last week, leaving city mayor Michael Hancock frothing at the mouth and leading to bad press for the cannabis-themed holiday. However, are the events in the aftermath of Denver’s revelry really a result of indulging in everyone’s favorite plant? Or is this just the price of any major public event?
The Scene in Denver on 4/20
Denver’s annual 420 celebration was already looking a bit different than the ideal early Thursday morning. Long lines extended through dreary weather from the Civic Center where the event was scheduled to be held. Many of the thousands that turned out for the gathering were caught in the drizzle for over an hour yet managed to maintain a positive outlook. Others were less patient. As the time ticked down to 4:20, a group of partygoers attempted to hop a Civic Center fence, bringing a portion of it down in the process.
Meanwhile, at the International Church of Cannabis
City officials had already made it clear they intended to handle 420 festivities with a strict, uncompromising approach. The International Church of Cannabis had planned to open its doors to the public on April 20th
for their premier event “Elevate 2017.” However, when Denver lawmakers realized that the cannabis church was intending to allow entry to anyone 21 and over, they immediately met with the heads of the church to remind them that public consumption of marijuana was prohibited in the state of Colorado. Representatives of the church were forced to make Elevate 2017 an invitation-only event, opening its doors on 420 to 70 members of their congregation only.
Hancock’s Prohibitionist Leanings
With Denver officials taking a hardline against public marijuana consumption, it comes as little surprise that Hancock was left fuming at the state of the Civic Center Friday morning. As The Cannabist reported
, Hancock, who has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, ordered an investigation into the fence hopping incident and cleanup efforts taking longer than anticipated. He also took this opportunity to allude to potential penalties for the organizers of the 420 event at the Civic Center while threatening the future of Denver 420 celebration events.
The Other Side of the Story
Yet, there are two sides to every story and the 420 event organizers were quick to point out that Hancock and other city representatives were telling a distorted account of the aftermath. While Hancock pointed to a trashed park on Friday morning, other reports state that a paid cleanup crew, augmented by volunteers, was forced by city officials to leave Civic Center grounds by midnight on Thursday, meaning they had to return to finish cleanup efforts on Friday morning. Despite this setback, the organization behind the 420 celebration claim they “returned Civic Center Park under cleaner conditions than it began” and within the time frame initially outlined by the city of Denver.
Unfair Blame Heaped On the 420 Celebration
Hancock explained that the city’s concern over the 420 event stretched beyond dissatisfaction with the cleanup, possibly alluding to two incidents of gunfire. However, these altercations did not happen on Civic Center grounds and there’s no confirmation that the gunfire had anything to do with any of the scheduled 420 events. Likewise, long lines were a result of security precautions that the city of Denver insisted upon, resulting in frustrated yet irresponsible revelers bum-rushing the fence. Perhaps Hancock realized that his complaints about the 420 events were too nuanced to confidently place solely on the shoulders of event organizers as he admitted, “These types of issues could arise in any event — I want to make that very clear. But we don’t want to see them again.”
If Hancock is looking for reasons to rain down on legalized marijuana, this opportunity could have been a bit too enticing for him to pass up. However, the aftermath of Denver’s 420 celebration does highlight the heightened importance for cannabis users to be on the up-and-up during the period of federal prohibition. Of the thousands that turned out to the Denver Civic Center, 5 were arrested and 20 received civil citations, most likely for public consumption of cannabis. Yet, the bad press, whether warranted or not, echoes throughout the community.