The fate of the 2018 Denver 420 Rally remains uncertain, despite the fact that Thursday, November 9, was circled on calendars as the day that a hearing officer would decide the appeal of rally organizers who'd protested after the City of Denver banned their event permit for three years. While they wait, employees of Euflora dispensary continue to sit outside the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation building; they want the appeal denied and the 420 Rally organizers to lose their permit permanently...so that Euflora can pick it up.
Since May, when the city levied a three-year ban prohibiting 420 Rally organizers from applying for future permits, Miguel Lopez and Santino Walter have been fighting to keep both their priority status and their right to apply for an event permit at Civic Center Park for the weekend of April 20, 2018. The city issued the ban and revoked their priority status because the organizers failed to comply with certain safety requirements during the 2017 420 Rally, according to the city.
City hearing officer David Ramirez had said he expected to reach a decision on the organizers' appeal by November 9, but that was just an estimate by Ramirez and not a hard deadline, says Parks and Recreation media-relations official Cynthia Karvaski.
As Lopez and Walter awaited Ramirez's decision, one of the rally's additional sponsors took action. Pepe Breton, the co-owner of Euflora, started a company camp-out outside of the Parks and Recreation building on Colfax Avenue — steps away from where the 4/20 event is held — and Breton says he has no plans of ending it until Ramirez either approves the 420 Rally's appeal or upholds the city's action, giving Euflora a chance to apply for the permit. At least one Euflora employee has been stationed outside of the building at all times since Wednesday, October 25, according to Euflora marketing director Bobby Reginelli.
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The annual 420 Rally has been held on or around April 20 since 1994. Since Lopez took over the permit and began organizing the event, in 2007, it's grown in attendance each year, with national music acts such as Devin the Dude, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and 2Chainz brought in to perform. However, 2017's rally drew criticism from public officials after photos and reports of long security lines, torn-down fences and overflowing trash cans during the rally surfaced shortly after it ended. In May, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's office banned Lopez and Walter from applying for an event permit for three years, citing trash management, noise, public safety and security violations.
Lopez, Walter and their attorney, Rob Corry, appealed the ban in September. They're charged with five violations — the number needed to enact a ban on applying for a permit. While the duo could reapply for the permit if one of the five violations is dropped, four violations would still erase their priority status, which had put their application at the top of the pile each year. Meanwhile, Breton has sued Civic Center Productions, a company owned by Walter that helped produce the rally, over an alleged $23,126 unpaid loan that Euflora made to Civic Center Productions to help pay for 2Chainz to perform at the 2017 rally, among other expenses.
Breton says the camp-out won't end if the alleged debt is paid, since he continues to take issue with "what they did to the park, to the city and to the image of our young industry.” If the appeal is denied, Euflora is expected to apply immediately for the permit at Civic Center Park on April 20, 2018. "The entire event was categorically mismanaged. They couldn’t pay their bills, their vendors or even clean up their mess,” Breton said last month.
Breton has been paying hourly employees to sit outside the Parks and Recreation building in shifts, keeping up the camp-out 24/7. "Some people have asked me why I'm out here as they walk in or out," says Chris Greene, a Euflora budtender who has been sitting outside the building on some chilly days. "I'm just trying to help out the company."
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While Breton and other high-ranking Euflora employees have done their own shifts, many of the squatters are day-to-day workers, such as Greene, who have attended the rally in years past.
Euflora inventory manager Richard Atras was on duty November 9, and eager for a decision so that he could get out of the cold. Atras, bundled up in a blanket, is a salaried employee, and wasn't making any overtime for the gig. "It was either this or sitting in the office," he says. "I believe in this company, and I think Euflora would improve a lot of things if it got the permit for the event."
Lopez and Walter have declined to comment on the Euflora lawsuit. Lopez, who says he's confident that organizers will win the appeal, does say he doesn't take Euflora's move to get the permit seriously, even going so far as to call Breton, a fellow Latino, a "gachupín" — a disparaging word for settlers who immigrated from Spain.
November 1 was the first day that any other organization could apply for the April 20 permit, but the city says it won't process any applications — including one from 420 Rally organizers — until the appeal decision is made.