Education

4/20 at CU-Boulder: Legal action in attempt to block campus closure?

Last year, CU-Boulder closed its campus on April 20 in an attempt to squelch the annual 4/20 event -- and the university, whose spokesman deems the 2012 shutdown a great success, plans to repeat the feat next month.

Can anything stop this action? Well, the ACLU of Boulder is asking the school to reconsider, and the attorney who filed a rejected preliminary-injunction complaint in 2012 is floating the possibility of taking legal action again.

Last year, as you'll recall, CU didn't announce the campus-closure plan until just a week before April 20. Nonetheless, attorney Rob Corry hurriedly put together a request for a preliminary injunction and got a chance to present his case on April 19. But after a four-hour hearing, a Boulder district judge turned thumbs-down on Corry's argument, thereby allowing the university to move forward.

Afterward, Corry said he simply didn't have enough time to assemble a compelling case -- but thanks to CU's announcement earlier this week about the next campus shutdown, he isn't in quite as much of a rush. In an interview with the Boulder Daily Camera, he floated the idea of asking for a special visitors' permit with the idea of holding a rally on Norlin Quad, the traditional spot for the 4/20 event.

Odds are enormously against a positive response from CU. Spokesman Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend of yours truly) told us yesterday that while Norlin won't be spread with foul-smelling fish fertilizer, as was the case last year, it will still be taped off, making it inaccessible to anyone allowed on campus, visitors and students alike. Moreover, he says visitor passes will be granted to those involved in the school's academic mission -- and while Corry can certainly argue that a demonstration of free speech about an issue of tremendous interest on and off campus does that, it's doubtful the gatekeepers will agree.

If this tack doesn't work, Corry told the Camera that he'd consider going to court again -- a prospect reinforced by former Boulder Human Relations Commission chair Rob Smoke, one of the plaintiffs in last year's case. Corresponding via Facebook, he writes, "Rob is ready to go back to court," adding, "CU is in jeopardy of losing on this go-round -- especially if we go into court after following their procedures" for visitor passes.

"Personally, I don't view it as them stopping someone's party, even if the media wants to paint that picture," he goes on. "Myself, others, have had friends die in prison on an MJ sentence. 4/20 is a global protest/political event for reform, but also against imprisonment. Social action -- gathering for redress -- is essential in a free society and guaranteed under the Constitution."

In his view, "We don't have to sit around and grimly recite stanzas from the Constitution to have the event equal a legitimate protest. That's not the criteria."

Judd Golden, chair of the ACLU's Boulder chapter, agrees.

Continue for more about potential legal action to stop CU from closing campus on 4/20, including last year's court filing.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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