4/20 at CU-Boulder: Attorney may seek permit to hold pot rally on campus despite closure

CU-Boulder recently announced that it would close its campus on April 20 for the second consecutive year in an effort to squelch the annual 4/20 rally traditionally held there.

Attorney Rob Corry, who last year took CU to court in an unsuccessful attempt to thwart the closure, has some new tactics to fight the decision, such as possibly filing for a permit to hold a pot rally on the grounds despite the shutdown. Still, he's not ruling out the possibility of filing another complaint over the action.

Corry tells us he's had discussions with the university's counsel, "and his idea was applying for a permit through the normal process."

Granted, there's nothing normal about the campus closure, even though it happened last year. For instance, a CU-Boulder student leader revealed that the visitor-pass application procedures were still being fleshed out even after the announcement about cutting off access to the campus to most non-students.

Besides, Corry says, "part of the beauty of this is that it's leaderless -- an organic event that happens on its own. To get a permit, you have to have a leader, supply logistical items like Porta-Potties, cleanup, insurance. So we're looking into whether that's feasible. If we apply for a permit and convince CU we can deal with all the externalities of it, and if someone steps up, maybe CU will fold."

Unlikely. In a recent interview, CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend of yours truly) stressed that the university would only to be open to visitors who could prove they had official business on campus -- and he specifically noted that smoking marijuana in public was unlawful under both federal law and Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of cannabis.

The fact that April 20 is on a Saturday this year shouldn't be a consideration, Hilliard added, because a great deal of activity takes place at the school on weekends, and it would be disrupted by thousands of puffing revelers. But Corry says this assertion is contradicted by claims the university made last year in fighting his request for a temporary restraining order against the closure.

"CU's core argument -- that this somehow disrupts classes -- is far less effective because they have not articulated a single campus-related academic activity that will happen that Saturday," he allows. He draws a distinction between Hilliard's general statement and specifics: "I want to know what's going on there. I graduated from CU myself, and my experience is that the campus is pretty quiet and empty on Saturdays. So they need to articulate what we might be disturbing.

"During the hearing," he continues, "we pointed out that CU football games are far more numerous and rowdy, and last a lot longer, than the 4/20 rally does. And CU responded, 'That's Saturday.' But here we are: The good Lord has placed 4/20 on a Saturday, and they have to deal with that argument."

For his part, CU spokesoman Hilliard has said university attorneys feel like they're on firm legal footing for the closure, whether it's on Saturday or not.

Continue for more on 4/20 at CU-Boulder, including a look at last year's request for a temporary restraining order against the university. When will Corry and the original plaintiffs who signed on to last year's complaint, including Boulder's Rob Smoke, decide whether or not to ask for a permit? "We have to do it fourteen days before the event, so we have some time," he points out -- and he thinks that CU will deal with such an application in an expeditious way, rather than delaying a decision for as long as possible in the hope of harming his ability to seek another restraining order.

And if such a rally permit is rejected? "We would evaluate the reasons they turned it down and figure out whether it makes sense to go to court again," he says, "and whether their denial clarifies and frames the issues in a way that would be different from last year. Already the Saturday distinction gives us a shot -- but we need to make sure we're not just rehashing the same issues."

In the meantime, Corry would welcome the participation of the ACLU, whose Boulder branch has asked CU-Boulder to reconsider the closure, but without committing to any further efforts. "I think this is a classic free-speech case, and that's where the ACLU excels," he points out. "Last year, I reluctantly stepped up and threw something together at the last minute with no compensation. So I would love it if the ACLU gets involved or even takes this over."

After all, Corry acknowledges that he's never attended the 4/20 rally at CU-Boulder, given his regular commitment to participating in Denver's event at Civic Center Park. But when he was a student, he attended a similar event there.

"They were concerts called FINA -- the acronym stood for 'Fun In the Nuclear Age,'" he recalls. "It was a bunch of hippies playing Frisbee and smoking pot, and there were huge crowds. It was very loud -- much louder than any 4/20 festivities at CU have ever been. And it was officially sanctioned by the university."

Did FINA have a negative impact on the school? Not in Corry's opinion. "CU was a world-class teaching and research university then, and it still is now. No 4/20 rally has changed that."

Here's the request for a temporary restraining order Corry filed against CU-Boulder last year:

CU 4/20 Complaint

More from our Marijuana archive: "4/20 at CU-Boulder: Legal action in attempt to block campus closure?"

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