On One Hand

April 20, 2007

4:20

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 4:20 pm
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I was disappointed when my mom said she saw “tens of thousands” of people gathered in Civic Center Park in Denver on 4:20pm, April 20 this year. It was late that night when I spoke to her, and she said the video clip on the news showed that the “whole park was packed” with people. I knew that meant a lot of protesters in favor of reforming marijuana laws, since Civic Center Park is huge; I have been to festivals there that were said to have held upwards of 100,000 people.

I was disappointed with my mom’s story only because it suggested Denver’s celebration was bigger than Boulder’s – and therefore I missed out on a truly historical event. I was out on Boulder’s 4:20 field, in front of the library on the CU campus, and Boulder’s gathering was impressive in itself. But perhaps in light of Denver County’s recent decriminalization or marijuana as city ordinance, and the University of Colorado’s attempts to crack down on 4:20 smokers in the past few years, the epicenter of the celebration has shifted away from the university toward the state capital 20 miles away.

But no, according to all the local media, Denver’s apparent throngs of people were an illusion in the video my mother saw. The Rocky Mountain News reports that there were 100 police at Civic Center Park and almost as many arrests, and, as the same paper reports in another article, “over 700 people” at the rally.

Meanwhile, the News reports about 3,500 pot smokers on the Norlin Quad field in the center of the CU campus, says the News. A handful of police were there keeping an eye on the protest, but few tickets were issued. Several of the local businesses and restaurants adjacent to campus; like Dominos Pizza and Chiba Hut subs, sent vendors out to the field to sell food. There were whole pizzas, t-shirts and sandwiches, all sold for $4.20 apiece.

I was on the field at 4:20 distributing copies of the 4th issue of il.lit.er.ate Magazine. We got out about 250 copies and another 250 up on the Hill where the students meandered to buy food after smoking. I didn’t smoke anything myself, (I hardly ever do anymore), even on this smoker-friendly day. It’s just not my thing. I was more into the spectacle, which is the biggest protest I have ever seen on a CU campus.

Last year’s 4:20 was on Farrand Field, a field near the dorms where the celebration is traditionally held. The event was huge my freshman year – a special date, being 4.20.2004, but after that, CU’s reputation as a “party school” and subsequent media debacles with riots, drinking-related deaths, and ousted professor Ward Churchill left the university hoping to prevent 4:20 from being a chance for more public criticism. The next year’s 4:20 was rainy, and the field was closed down, so students gathered in the parking lot adjacent and rushed over the barricades at the last minute. Cops turned the field’s sprinkler system on, but there were so many bodies on the field that the water didn’t reach most of them. The next year, cops cracked down again, barricading the field and photographing people who went on to it anyway. Photos were posted Online, and anyone who identified one of the pot-smokers got a $50 reward while the identified person got a $100 ticket. The CU police department got its ass sued off after the ploy; apparently, while smoking pot is illegal, doing it in a specific place and time is protected speech and the smokers’ citations, which were issued for “trespassing,” were void.

This year all of Farrand Field is turned up under construction. It is unfathomable to me how it takes a full year to remodel a field, which consists of grass and dirt, but the university has had Farrand Field closed since August and it is currently walled off by 8-foot construction fences and enormous mountains of dirt and gravel.

Norlin Field was the alternative, and it seems to have been a good one: law enforcement officials resigned themselves to let the peacefully-indulgent protest happen. So 3,500 giggly and hug-happy stoned students proved that it isn’t that big of a deal.

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3 Comments »

  1. It makes me really sad and frustrated that we can get 3500 people out for a “protest” about marijuana laws (or maybe rather, a celebration of our favorite pastime), but we can’t get anywhere near that in Boulder for a rally against violence, an anti-war protest, or a vigil for the Virginia Tech kids.

    I think that’s a profoundly sad statement about our generation’s priorities.

    Comment by agent_k_says — April 21, 2007 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

    • If there was one specific time and date we’re supposed to protest violence ever year, I think there would be a better chance of making it big. But violence happens every day and people protest every day, so we haven’t seen huge demonstrations that blow up like 4:20. If you want to make something get huge, start sending out mass-emails right away for people to gather on Norlin at a designated time and I bet you could make it work.

      And I’ve got to say, a lot of people smoke pot on 4:20, but a lot of people don’t, and it’s more about the spectacle and spirit of rebellion that makes it fun. We could, after all, smoke pot in our living rooms at 4:20 and be just as giggly and stoned. 4:20 is a fun time. People come together. Everyone is so nice, and expressive; the eccentric nerds finally get their revenge but the jocks are out smoking with them.

      Comment by ononehand — April 21, 2007 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

  2. Well, I think 420 is sort of lame anyways. However, I love it when people organize and put forth some sort of collective voice. It makes me coo over democracy…or whatever botched system we have left.

    Comment by timberwolves — April 22, 2007 @ 6:39 pm | Reply


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