4/20 in Civic Center Park: Our pot critic cuts through the smoke

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There's a silence that falls over the crowd somewhere between 4:19 p.m. and 4:21 p.m.

It's not in memorial of anyone. And it's not because of anything anyone on stage said -- most people in attendance couldn't hear that anyway.

And it wasn't because of police intervention shutting down the party (only saw one arrest: two teary-eyed teenage girls in handcuffs surrounded by cop cars on the western lawn).

No. In that one minute the crowd with possibly more than 15,000 people in it everyone is busy with the same task: lighting up whatever marijuana paraphernalia they may be smoking as the ball drops -- so to speak.

Then slowly, as the haze lifts over the crowd -- the music came back on and people began exchanging stoney glances and pulling out their cell phone cameras for videos of the rising cloud.

We here at Mile Highs and Lows checked out the grounds twice today. The first time, around 11 a.m., the crowds were growing but it was still easy to meander through the different booths from head shops, dispensaries, massage therapists, political action groups and food vendors. Lots of food vendors.

I had to miss last year's events due to getting married in Jamaica, so it was an awesome sight to see how much the party has grown over the last two years. Thousands of puffers packed the lawn between the middle of the park and the Denver City and County Building, then south at the amphitheater all the way down to the seal fountain at Colfax.

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Milling through the packed park felt like moving through the fourth row of Red Rocks at a sold-out show, dodging people's lit blunts and joints as well as handfuls of thick-crust pizza.

For the thousands in the bowl of the arena, musicians and speakers peppered the stage throughout the day -- including event coordinator Miguel Lopez, who asked the crowd to remember those oppressed for expressing their views of cannabis before kicking off the afternoon's events. We weren't one of those thousands, however. At least not for long.

Nothing to do with the music or the speakers, which were all great -- I'm sure. But because the amphitheater only holds a few thousand people, the majority of the crowd were just out to have a good time and see the scene while smoking some herb in public. I huddled down next to a crowd of college kids from Metro in the shade of the trees down the steps from the back of the amphitheater who had been hanging out all day in the park, with no intentions of going inside. They just wanted to enjoy the sun and smoke some of their Sweet Skunk.

There were a lot of people like them who were out for a mellow good time to celebrate cannabis. People from all walks of life: hippies, hipsters, juggalos, gangstas, skaters, businessmen in suits, kids with their parents, dogs, and (of course) teenagers skipping the last few periods of the day.

But it is somewhat of the New Year's Eve for pot smokers. Not because it marks another year of prohibition (though it does do that), but mostly because you see people out smoking copious amounts of ganja that usually don't. Like the girl who passed out face-first in front of the head shop booth about ten minutes before 4:20 p.m. as her boyfriend stood by asking: "What should I do?" to the crowd of gape-mouthed, stoned onlookers. Some hippie girl in a patchwork skirt eventually came to the girl's rescue with some water.

At 4:25, not long after the white blur of the crowd had dissipated, the sidewalks leading out east onto Colfax and South along Broadway were packed with bleary-eyed puffers leaving the event and heading out to find some shade. A few people laid down in the capitol lawn, no so much in protest but more to get out of the heat under the shade of some trees while three state troopers looked on.

My joint of Sour Kush out (we are all for civil disobedience here at Mile Highs and Lows), we headed up to the library to snag a picture of the party still in action:

If you missed out on today's events, the 4/20 rally is two days this year and things light right back up at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Looking for something to do tonight? Check out our list of all the ganja-related events going on tonight and this weekend.

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