4/20 in Boulder: CU regent wants to ban event due to $50,000 cost of protecting "outsiders"

Again this year, thousands of people celebrated 4/20 on CU-Boulder's campus. Afterward, university officials complained about the $50,000 cost of providing security for this non-sanctioned event -- among them CU regent Michael Carrigan, who wants the university to take "whatever steps are necessary so that the protest doesn't occur on our property" in the future.

Carrigan points out that "the university gets very little state funding -- and we try to put as much of our funding as possible toward educating students. And unfortunately, quite a few outsiders have decided to make us the site for their battle on an unrelated social issue."

Outsiders? Most coverage last week counted thousands of CU students among the 4/20 throng, as has been the case during past years. But Carrigan says thousands more come from beyond campus.

"What was reported to me this year, in particular, was the great prevalence of pre-college-age individuals -- high school and even junior high school-age students," he says. The estimated 10,000-person crowd "is half the undergraduate student body in Boulder," he adds. "So I can say with great confidence that the crowd was not even majority CU students."

On 4/20, Boulder police shared info about three driving-under-the-influence-of-weed citations, including one in which a seventeen-year-old reportedly crashed into a patrol car. The presence of so many potentially stoned young people on the road is "part of the reason why the university has spent the resources -- to prevent this from becoming a public-safety hazard," Carrigan maintains. "That's where the $50,000 figure comes from. But that's not the way we want to spend it."

In the past, CU has made assorted efforts to squelch the 4/20 festivities. As recounted by CU NORML rep Alex Douglas in a 4/20 post last year, they included taking videos and still photos of attendees and then encouraging people to ID them online, as well as turning the sprinklers on at Farrand Field, the original 4/20 site. Then, in 2007, the school tore up Farrand to put in a new field -- a move that backfired when the gathering moved to the much larger Norlin Quad and attendance ballooned.

"I think if there was an easy fix, the university would have already done it," Carrigan acknowledges. "But I do think there are parallels to the Boulder Mall Crawl," a Halloween street party that was shut down in 1991 due to its unruliness -- and Boulder Police worked overtime to rein in a 2009 revival effort. "Over time, you just make it more and more challenging for the protesters to come to our campus, and hopefully they'll be encouraged to go somewhere else."

Specific methods could include more than a heavy-handed police presence, Carrigan goes on. "There could be parking bans, street closures," and "other obstacles to make the Boulder campus an inconvenient place for them to express their social issue."

As for when the regents might address a 4/20 ban, Carrigan says, "We have important votes coming up on tuition and other strategic matters. But I certainly hope that before next spring, the administration on the Boulder campus will report how they plan on dealing with this next April, and every year after that."

More from our Marijuana archive: "4/20 rally in Denver: To legalize or not to legalize... wait, what is the question?"