After thousands were disappointed Saturday to hear about the rescheduling of the Annual 4/20 Rally and concert, the turnout at Civic Center Park on the actual holiday was still something to sniff at — only I'm not sure I liked the smell.
There was no free concert with Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa or a High Times Cannabis Cup to congregate at this year, so many marijuana lovers, including myself, looked at Civic Center as the place to pay homage to the day and time that has become sacred to stoners. Although not officially organized or advertised, there was a Facebook page with a few thousand invites for the meet-up, and anyone who has lived here longer than a year knows that the park is the place to go for a public toke on April 20.
The Denver Police Department announced that it issued 64 marijuana-related citations at the park on April 20, but police kept a subtle presence during the three hours I was there. Officers mounted on bicycles or on foot patrolled the perimeter and grassy areas of the park, but anyone who was smart enough to smoke in the amphitheater or in the middle of crowded areas was safe. There was an occasional arrest, followed by chants of "Fuck the police!" Compared to past years, however, the attendees were calm and the turnout was smaller, despite the nice weather.
But no less annoying.
I have no problem with the Deadheads, gangsters, wanksters, Juggalos and members of the once-a-month-shower club who mostly populate the pot events in Colorado. They're generally friendly and truly love cannabis. But it'd be nice if they appreciated what we had going on here by learning just a little bit about history and current politics.
As the crowd began to fill the amphitheater around 2:30, local marijuana activists and resident rambler Robert Chase started voicing his concerns about federal marijuana prisoners, social marijuana consumption and where pot tax dollars are going in Colorado – all valid issues — over his trademark megaphone.
"Arrests have been down since Amendment 64. I supported it," he shouted — though no one further than 25 feet away could hear him. "But it has a lot of defects that we need to look at. A lot of wiggle room."
Within thirty seconds, Chase was drowned out by screams of "Shut up, already!" and "You're killing my high, bro!" A man with a green bandanna over his mouth attempted to grab Chase's megaphone, screaming, "It's people like this who make smoking weed not fun" to cheers of the crowd. After multiple attempts by others to silence him, Chase finally moved to the steps.
Then, a dab zombie with a black and green marijuana flag shuffled his way across the amphitheater floor, falling and then getting up as the crowd applauded. Another man with more flags reading "Amendment 64" (which passed in 2012) handed them out to the crowd while yelling "Get out and vote!" amid a sea of grabby hands.
This wasn't an activists' rally; it was a party. But after looking at the hundreds, if not thousands, of people around me with joints and pipes in their hands, I realized that this might be more powerful than any rally here could've been. These people weren't talking. Most of them were too stoned for that. They were doing. Right in front of the police. Finally ready to embrace the fun part of 4/20, I joined them.
Miguel Lopez, organizer of the rescheduled 4/20 Rally, strolled in and set up a lawn chair at the south stage entrance and held court with other local pot personalities as the big moment drew near. Marijuana attorney Robert Corry showed up around 4:15 p.m. in a black fur coat, and the two began shouting at people near the steps of the amphitheater stage.
"The weather forecast is cloudy," Corry said into a megaphone as he looked at the sky. "With a 100 percent chance of freedom!"
His remarks were met with an eruption of cheers as the park began to fill with smoke.
"And this one is for Ken Gorman and all the others who have sacrificed for freedoms like this!" he screamed. That one was met with less of a reaction.
"Who the fuck is Ken Gorman?" a confused twenty-something next to me asked.
Ken Gorman, the forefather of cannabis activism in Denver and original organizer of the Annual 4/20 Rally at Civic Center, was a regular organizer of protests and smoke-ins outside the State Capitol Building long before it was cool, or even close to safe. He was killed in his home in 2007, and the murder remains unsolved.
"He's why all of this is happening right now," I said. "Everyone you don't want to hear talk is why this is happening right now."
There was no hesitation in his response. "Hey, man, I just came here to smoke weed with my people," he said. The man was alone, so I asked him where his people were. "Look around you," he said. "We're everywhere."
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