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4/20 at CU-Boulder: Fish fertilizer used on Norlin Quad a favorite of pot growers

Irony alert: Foul-smelling fish fertilizer of the sort CU-Boulder applied this morning to Norlin Quad, which has been closed as part of a plan to shrink the annual 4/20 event on campus, is a favorite of marijuana growers.

Great minds think alike.

CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard, whose comments about the university's 4/20-squelching plan were published earlier today, notes that the media seems fascinated by the substance. "I've probably done more interviews on fish fertilizer than what our police response is," he says.

As such, he's become something of an expert on the substance. "It's made of ocean fish that subsist on a diet of highly organic plankton," he says. "It's a very nutrient-rich fertilizer that we apply to the grounds of CU every spring and early summer. And this year, we simply made the decision to apply the first batch of it on Norlin Quad, for obvious reasons." He adds that "it's not toxic, it's not harmful, it's totally organic, it doesn't have any chemicals in it, and it's not pleasant to breath."

A shot from last year's 4/20 event at CU-Boulder.
A shot from last year's 4/20 event at CU-Boulder.
Photo by Kate Levy

William Breathes, our resident medical marijuana critic, offers confirmation. He describes the fertilizer as gooey/gritty/emulsified fish guts that many marijuana growers prize because it's relatively inexpensive and a little of it goes a long way. The only drawback? The smell is so rank that it's capable of making practically anyone flinch.

According to Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend), the reek tends to linger for 24 to 48 hours. Nonetheless, the Boulder Daily Camera reports that students were walking across the quad early this morning anyhow -- although not, apparently, at 4:20 a.m. A protest of CU's action slated for that time, which was bandied about on social media over recent days, either failed to materialize or escaped the notice of university reps.

Page down to continue reading about the Norlin Quad closure.

Now, things are much different. "One section of the Norlin Quad grass is open for pedestrians to pass through," notes CU Police Department spokesman Ryan Huff. "It'll be open throughout the day, and there are hand railings. And not the entire Norlin Quad is closed -- just the main grass areas that create a rectangle."

They wouldn't look so happy if they were smelling fish fertilizer.
They wouldn't look so happy if they were smelling fish fertilizer.
Photo by Kate Levy

Those sectors are surrounded by police tape, and walkways in the vicinity are festooned with signage announcing the closure. Those who ignore these warnings, and the stench, can be cited for trespassing. But how strict will the CU Police be?

"It's at the officer's discretion," Huff says. "We will give tickets when it makes sense and we can ensure the safety of the officer and the people in the area. But with that said, it says, 'Police Line: Do Not Cross.' So it will be very clear to people that this area is closed to anyone regardless of university affiliation."

The expense of this effort continues to be a matter of debate, with plenty of Facebook commentators griping about resources being spent on 4/20-related efforts even though students have recently received e-mail warnings about violent crimes.

"There was a robbery on east campus approximately two weeks ago," Huff acknowledges. But he stresses that the cost 4/20 effort hasn't hampered the department's response: "After that happened, we deployed officers on bicycles and motorcycles all along the paths for several days after that. So we have the capacity to address major violent crime and also enforce the chancellor's closure order.

"It's important to note that this year is an investment," he continues. "We have to spend money on a large presence of officers to deter people coming onto the campus who don't belong here, and on this day, the chancellor has asked that visitors not come here. But our hope is that over multiple years, this gathering will not happen. And we have to invest in the first year, and the years after that, for it to be effective."

Of course, there's no question about the effectiveness of fish fertilizer. Both the university that's trying to stop people from smoking pot on campus and the people who grow it are big fans.

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