Denver Mile High 420 Festival: Field Guide, FAQs | Westword

Denver 420 Fest Field Guide

Many traditions still hold, but the annual celebration at Civic Center Park has a fresh crop of visitors every year.
The Mile High 420 Festival returns to Civic Center Park in Denver on Saturday, April 20. Gates open at 1 p.m.
The Mile High 420 Festival returns to Civic Center Park in Denver on Saturday, April 20. Gates open at 1 p.m. Jacqueline Collins
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Are you one of the thousands of cannabis lovers planning a high and happy holiday celebration this Saturday, April 20, at Civic Center Park?

For nearly three decades, a cannabis-friendly celebration has taken place at Civic Center on or near April 20 to mark 4/20. The event transitioned from a political rally to a concert and vendor space in the late 2000s, but the celebratory attitude toward cannabis has been constant.

Now called the Mile High 420 Festival and organized by JARS, a Michigan-based dispensary chain, the celebration attracted around 30,000 attendees in 2023. This year could be even bigger, according to JARS, which has secured permission from Denver Parks & Recreation to shut down Broadway between 14th and Colfax avenues all day on Saturday.

Although the 420 Fest isn't new to Denver and many traditions still hold, the event has a fresh crop of visitors and inquiries every year. To help you plan ahead, here's a list of answers to common 420 Fest questions:

Is the Mile High 420 Festival Free?

The 4/20 celebration and concert at Civic Center Park has always been free to the general public, no matter who's been organizing or performing at the event. The 420 Fest is keeping up with tradition this year, offering free entry to the general admission crowd; VIP passes are available for $175. Although this is a free event, JARS says you still need to register on Eventbrite to be scanned inside of the festival.

Is There an Age Limit?

The 420 Fest and preceding 420 Rally were all-ages for years, but this will be the second time in a row that the event will have an age limit. After receiving requests from parents and youth drug-prevention groups in 2022 and 2023, JARS enforced an age limit for the first time in the festival's history last year. The 21-and-up age limit will return this year, according to JARS.

Can I Smoke Weed at the 420 Fest?

Anyone who's been to the 420 Fest before knows the answer to this, but there are bound to be some newbies at Civic Center Park this Saturday. And to be fair, the State of Colorado and the City of Denver love to remind people about local and state laws banning public cannabis consumption on 4/20. Public events are prohibited from allowing cannabis use, and Civic Center Park is city-owned property, which makes it off-limits for any form of permitted pot consumption or hospitality.

That's never stopped a massive smoke cloud from forming over Civic Center Park every year, though, even if the 420 Fest's stated policy is that "anyone caught distributing marijuana or using any illegal substances at the event may be removed from the event by local authorities."
click to enlarge A woman in pink hair smokes a joint
Last year's 420 Fest had plenty of pot smoking and zero police citations for public consumption.
Jacqueline Collins
Despite the public stance by Denver and the stated policy, law enforcement officials have largely turned a blind eye to attendees smoking weed within the festival grounds on 4/20. For the past two years, there have been zero citations for public pot consumption, despite plenty of smoking taking place in the crowd and on stage by performers.

JARS managing partner Scott Rybicki says event organizers are focusing more on licensed sponsors and booth vendors to ensure compliance, with no vendor cannabis samples allowed at the 420 Fest.

"We are pretty strict with our vendors, and this isn't a consumption event to be advertised. There are no samples to be given out, and it's more about learning about these brands and what they do," Rybicki says. "It's always a safe environment, and 23 percent of the festival budget is allocated to security. We're very proud of trying to keep it safe and about the community."

What Musicians Are Playing?

The 420 celebration in Denver has included a free concert for over a decade. As in previous years, 2024's lineup will be heavy on hip-hop. Announced by JARS on March 15, the 4/20 Fest lineup is headlined by Gucci Mane, Ohgeesy and Afroman, with additional performances from Big Boss Vette, Murs, Tommy Genesis, Dro Kenji, Lexy Panterra and Fedd the Godd. Last year, Tommy Chong was the concert's host and MC. According to Rybicki, another big name in cannabis culture could be hosting this year.

What Can I Bring Inside?

There will be security guards and brief searches at the festival entrance. This hasn't stopped people from bringing cannabis, joints, bongs and entire dab setups into the park before, but you never know. Still, there is a long list of prohibited items on the event website, including large purses, bags, backpacks or coolers, any kind of weapon, megaphones or amplified sound equipment, pets, drones, lawn furniture, any kind of glass, and illegal substances, as well as cannabis. (Find a complete list at at festival website.) Empty water bottles are allowed, however. Some items may be more prohibited than others, but don't be surprised if anything on the no-go list is confiscated or gets you turned away. Like any other concert, this is where joints come in handy.

Are Food and Alcohol for Sale?

You can't bring food and drink into the 420 Fest, but there will be food trucks and vendors throughout the festival grounds. And since the entire event is 21-and-up, alcohol sales will be allowed, but all sales and drinking must take place in designated fenced-off areas.

Weather Forecast on 4/20

Dress warm if you're spending 4/20 outside, because there's a cold front hanging over Denver this weekend. Forecasts show a high of 42 degrees on April 20, with an expected temperature of around 41 degrees when 4:20 p.m. rolls around. Cloudy skies and slight winds are also likely, according to the National Weather Service, which predicts snow before noon and chances of rain and snow showers throughout the day after that.
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