Last month, we shared a letter sent by Rob Corry, attorney for the 4/20 rally at Civic Center Park, to Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver City Council. The gist: While public pot smoking is nixed by Amendment 64, the measure allows it at home -- and since Civic Center Park is the rally's home, attendees planned to burn some trees, as it were. This unusual assertion was as much a show of bravado as a legal argument, and it provoked threats to block the festival entirely. So Corry has rescinded the letter (see his latest missive below) -- but he isn't backing off lighting up.
As we've reported, the original letter, also shared here, finds Corry taking a shot at "a fringe minority fraction of the Denver City Council," which "has engaged in irresponsibly belligerent threats about an alleged increased Police enforcement of petty offenses this year at the 420 Rally." The document also scoffs at the assertion that Civic Center Park is "an urban 'crown jewel' where parents can take their children to picnic." No families with children picnic there, he allows, because "the only times that park is safe is during permitted events. Otherwise, the City has abdicated any interest in protecting and valuing this space, and has surrendered it."
In Corry's view, 4/20 is "a Marijuana Holiday," and "attempts to stop such reality would be unwise, wasteful, excessive, unnecessary, potentially dangerous, and would contribute to an erosion of public respect for law enforcement. Denver Police might as well try to stop public consumption of alcohol by tailgaters in the parking lot before a Bronco game. Such would be equally ridiculous and absurd."
This invective clearly didn't thrill city councilman Charlie Brown, who went off in a February 26 Denver Post article. He suggested that the city respond to the letter by denying a festival permit to rally organizers, even if it means picking a legal fight. "If we're going to take it to court at some point," he told the Post, "we might as well do it this year."
In conversation with Westword, Corry excoriates the Post piece, suggesting that the paper "overplayed its hand -- and I think Charlie Brown probably overplayed his hand as well, by saying the letter would give them the ability to deny the permit -- which it wouldn't."
At the same time, he recognizes that the letter hadn't accomplished its purpose -- so he sent a followup note rescinding the first one. An excerpt epitomizes the second document's much mellower tone. It reads:
We sincerely apologize if the misinterpretation of our previous letter caused any confusion. Our intent was to clarify, not confuse. Our letter, though inartfully drafted, was a reaction to provocative statements about an alleged Police crackdown this year at 420. We realize now that we should not have taken that bait, and instead should have conducted ourselves on a higher plane.
Will the plane on which the 4/20 rally takes place be lower as a result of Brown's suggested permit denial and a possible court fight? Not if Corry has anything to say about it.
"We're going to proceed in the exact same manner as past years," he says.
Corry now maintains that "we've never thought a crackdown was going to happen," adding, "I think the police on the ground understand what's going on, and we've always been very respectful to the police who are there. They've always engaged in restraint, with a couple of minor exceptions. They've never really done a crackdown, and I don't expect they will this year, either.
"Of course, we can't control the police," he acknowledges. "So if there is a crackdown, we'll deal with it."
How so? "We'll allow police to move freely in the rally, as we always have. And if they feel the need to hand citations to people -- although I can't speak for every single rally participant, and can't -- I would assume people would accept those citations and everybody would move on. These aren't arrestable citations anyway, and they still have to convict people beyond a reasonable doubt -- and I know they realize that's an uphill battle."
Again this year, Corry is offering to represent anyone cited by police who can't afford representation pro bono, and he isn't concerned about a parade of losses. "I'm not aware of any marijuana conviction that has ever emanated from a 4/20 rally," he says.
Does Corry fear the crackdown talk will lower attendance for the festival? "I'm sure that will keep some people away," he acknowledges, "although it will make it more likely that other people will come. So we're not too worried about that. I doubt Charlie Brown can scare everyone away.
"In fact, we've invited him to come," Corry goes on. He believes Brown "should see what happens, and I think if he does, he'll understand it's just like any other festival in Civic Center Park: Cinco de Mayo, PrideFest, the People's Fair. He'll see a very peaceful group."
Here are the two letters from Corry -- the rescinding message first, followed by the original.
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More from our Marijuana archive circa February 17: "Denver 4/20 rally 2014 preview: Peaceful message -- and pot-smoking citations?"