4/20 at CU-Boulder: Legal action in attempt to block campus closure?
Last year, CU-Boulder closed its campus on April 20 in an attempt to squelch the annual 4/20 event -- and the university, whose spokesman deems the 2012 shutdown a great success, plans to repeat the feat next month.
Can anything stop this action? Well, the ACLU of Boulder is asking the school to reconsider, and the attorney who filed a rejected preliminary-injunction complaint in 2012 is floating the possibility of taking legal action again.
Last year, as you'll recall, CU didn't announce the campus-closure plan until just a week before April 20. Nonetheless, attorney Rob Corry hurriedly put together a request for a preliminary injunction and got a chance to present his case on April 19. But after a four-hour hearing, a Boulder district judge turned thumbs-down on Corry's argument, thereby allowing the university to move forward.
Afterward, Corry said he simply didn't have enough time to assemble a compelling case -- but thanks to CU's announcement earlier this week about the next campus shutdown, he isn't in quite as much of a rush. In an interview with the Boulder Daily Camera, he floated the idea of asking for a special visitors' permit with the idea of holding a rally on Norlin Quad, the traditional spot for the 4/20 event.
Odds are enormously against a positive response from CU. Spokesman Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend of yours truly) told us yesterday that while Norlin won't be spread with foul-smelling fish fertilizer, as was the case last year, it will still be taped off, making it inaccessible to anyone allowed on campus, visitors and students alike. Moreover, he says visitor passes will be granted to those involved in the school's academic mission -- and while Corry can certainly argue that a demonstration of free speech about an issue of tremendous interest on and off campus does that, it's doubtful the gatekeepers will agree.
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If this tack doesn't work, Corry told the Camera that he'd consider going to court again -- a prospect reinforced by former Boulder Human Relations Commission chair Rob Smoke, one of the plaintiffs in last year's case. Corresponding via Facebook, he writes, "Rob is ready to go back to court," adding, "CU is in jeopardy of losing on this go-round -- especially if we go into court after following their procedures" for visitor passes.
"Personally, I don't view it as them stopping someone's party, even if the media wants to paint that picture," he goes on. "Myself, others, have had friends die in prison on an MJ sentence. 4/20 is a global protest/political event for reform, but also against imprisonment. Social action -- gathering for redress -- is essential in a free society and guaranteed under the Constitution."
In his view, "We don't have to sit around and grimly recite stanzas from the Constitution to have the event equal a legitimate protest. That's not the criteria."
Judd Golden, chair of the ACLU's Boulder chapter, agrees.
In announcing his opposition to the campus closure, Golden notes that "past gatherings on April 20 have included speech about marijuana laws and policy, and peaceful civil disobedience." And, in his view, "the mission of a public university should include tolerance and accommodation for peaceful demonstrations, rallies and First Amendment expressive political activity. This should be particularly true with the recent passage and ongoing public policy debate about the implementation of Amendment 64.
"What is also at stake is the fundamental civil liberty of people to be in public places and not have to show identification or explain yourself to authorities when you are not suspected of wrongdoing," he continues. And because "the vast CU campus grounds are generally open to the public, with few controlled access points," potentially slapping alleged trespassers with criminal charges for entering areas accessible to them on any other day of the year "is ineffective and invites arbitrary and selective enforcement."
For those reasons, Golden concludes, "The ACLU urges the University to reconsider the proposed closure of campus and other plans to repress 4/20 activities this year."
Could the ACLU challenge CU-Boulder in court on these grounds? When asked that question, Golden answers, "Our Boulder County ACLU Chapter does not file lawsuits, nor can we threaten to do so; we do advocacy and education. Any ACLU litigation in Colorado is done by the Colorado ACLU staff and cooperating attorneys.
Might something like that be in the works? "As a matter of policy, the Colorado ACLU does not discuss possible litigation," he replies.
Look below to see the 2012 preliminary injunction request to prevent CU from closing its campus on April 20.
More from our Marijuana archive: "4/20 at CU-Boulder: University closure okayed, judge rejects Rob Corry complaint."
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