As we've reported, organizers of the Denver 420 Rally have been prohibited from applying for a Denver event permit for three years as a result of complaints about security and cleanup issues at this year's edition, and their priority status with the city was rescinded. Attorney Rob Corry, representing lead planner Miguel Lopez and his team, formally appealed that decision at a marathon session on September 19, and while the hearing officer has up to thirty days to issue a ruling, the city's Department of Parks and Recreation has already sent Lopez an application for the 2018 event. He sees this development as a positive sign even though a line inserted into the document reads, "Due to the pending appeal, DPR reserves the right to cancel any dates or reservations."
"It may be a preservation of my right until the decision," Lopez says. "But it still feels nice, and more comfortable, too."
Denver rules state that an organizer can be banned from applying for a city event permit for three years if five violations are found to have taken place. Corry told us during a May interview that he felt Parks and Rec had trumped up charges in order to reach this total and reiterated that point in the days before the hearing. As evidence, he noted that after dropping a claim about a noise-ordinance violation that he regarded as highly suspect (officials had already acknowledged that the rally's sound system hadn't exceeded a previously agreed-upon decibel standard), the city subbed in an extra accusation related to trash. Corry characterized the tactic as "double-counting."
For his part, Lopez believes that because the noise ordinance matter was withdrawn, "I only have four violations now — so I assume the ban has been dropped."
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He adds: "The way it was explained to me, the first, second and third violations constitute a fine, a fourth violation is priority status, and the fifth is the ban. So I hope we'll get by with just some fines."
The application gives Lopez until October 20 to confirm his intentions to hold the rally at Civic Center Park on the next April 20 (conveniently, it falls on a Friday), and once he's done that, "we'll already have our preserved rights for 2018, which is a really good indicator to me."
But he's been thinking about options in case things go awry. "It may be time to expand to a national platform," he allows. "We've done the annual Smoke-In at the White House, and all I'd have to do is convert all my energies and resources to take it out of Denver to the National Mall. And the permitting process there is easier. I can apply for a permit at the White House 364 days before an event. But in Denver, you can only apply for calendar events at the beginning of November unless you have priority status, like I do."
That will only remain the case if hearing officer David Ramirez rules in his favor. But Lopez says he's "100 percent optimistic" and stresses that "the rally will take place."