The actions recalled police enforcement on 4/20 weekend in 2015, when cops raided and shut down two pot clubs, POTUS and Grassroots Colorado.
Agencies whose personnel were on hand at the Cup included the Denver Police Department, the Denver Fire Department and the city's Department of Environmental Health, which handles public health inspections for the city. DEH inspectors checked out food trucks serving event attendees.
The DEH confirmed in an e-mail that they did have inspectors looking into food trucks on East Colfax Avenue yesterday. Danica Lee, the interim director of the Public Health Inspections Division, says that the agency was informed of the Colorado Cup weeks ago by a citizen who had seen it advertised. "Inspecting regulated businesses and marijuana businesses and investigating citizen concerns is a major part of the work our agency does, so the decision was made to conduct inspections," Lee wrote in an e-mail.
The Denver Police Department confirmed that they were at the scene, but directed all questions to the Denver Fire Department, which (update) responded to our inquiry after this item's publication. The DFD's comments are at the bottom of the post.
In the meantime, however, Rigs 4 Us will not be allowed to reopen until it addresses what officials determined were fire hazards.
Anna Zhuravlev, owner of Rigs 4 Us, located at 5912 East Colfax Avenue, allowed marijuana consumption at the event because the business is zoned as both a business and a residence. As we've reported, she lets people smoke in the private, residential portion of the building — in the back room, on the back patio or in the downstairs dab bar — and even offers a free dab hit to those over 21.
For the Colorado Cup, Zhuravlev worked with event organizer AJ Hashman — and they were confident that they wouldn't run afoul of the city during the event. An excerpt from our previous post reads:
Hashman and Zhuravlev have covered their bases in preparing for the Colorado Cup, hiring security and requiring that attendees sign a waiver before they enter, stating that they are entering the private establishment of their own free will and are responsible for their own actions. Last month, Zhuravlev distributed fliers to buildings in the area, informing neighbors of the competition and of the amplified music that will be coming from her building. She didn’t request a special-events permit from the city because she’s hosting a free private event on her own property; she says that attorneys she consulted confirmed that she’s operating within the law.On Wednesday, everything was going smoothly until a man wearing a bandanna over his face walked in the front door, alarming a store employee.
“Scared the shit out of me," the employee said. "I thought we were getting robbed."
The man in the bandanna turned out to be an undercover cop, and he told everyone to get out and started asking for employees. Zhuravlev and a small group of people were told to stay put in the store as most of the attendees spilled from the building to the sidewalk. Zhuravlev says she was not shown a search warrant and that the officers attempted to take tapes from her security cameras. Three uniformed officers stood guard at the front door, ensuring that no one entered or left the building during the search.
Chris Vrtis, aka DJ Shaman, peered helplessly through a chain-link fence as policemen tore through his record collection and mishandled his turntables. He had just started playing a set when a friend came out and told him to cut the music. He was ushered outside with everyone else and could only stand and watch as the place was searched.
After hours of waiting, the police gave Hashman an official decision: The event would be shut down because the building had too many fire hazards.
Over a megaphone, Hashman addressed the eager crowd: “It's kind of ridiculous, but we've got to follow their rules. They said that the building cannot accommodate folks because there's too many fire hazards. Thank you guys so much, and I apologize — and we'll be talking to you guys very soon once we find a safer venue.”
Rigs 4 Us will remain closed until Zhuravlev can bring the building up to code.
Ed Schwarz, one of the judges in the Colorado Cup competition, was sitting in the dab lounge when he heard the cops were upstairs. “Pretty much everybody jumped up and made a beeline to get out the door,” he says. “It's really sad in this day and age that we have that level of fear around cannabis, especially when it's been legalized.”
He was impressed with the police department's professionalism, but he's not happy about what happened. “I've kind of watched how they've handled this as a city body of departments. It wasn't just the police department and the fire department. They also decided to bring out the Department of Environmental Health with multiple food inspectors to have them do food inspections on the food trucks. So even these vendors who are out on public property trying to make honest money because they found an opportunity...they went after the food trucks, as well.”
The mass of people huddled outside remained festive as the police searched the building. Two men played guitar for the crowd, and another sold glass pipes. There was an absence of weed smoke in the air, but there was no tension. Afroman, who's in town for a 4/21 show at Cervantes, showed up, and he would have performed at Rigs 4 Us. But he settled for a trip to Mindful, a dispensary next door, when he found out the Cup had been shut down. He posed and chatted with fans, leaving with an armful of swag — and presumably some pot.
When the police were done searching, everyone filed back in, and some were disappointed with what they saw. Medical patients who had brought their own marijuana found their things out of place. The downstairs dab room had been turned into a mess, and at least one person wanted to press charges against the police for tampering with his medicine.
Schwarz says he hopes the police at least saw a different side of the stoner culture in Denver. “You know, we are not scum of the earth, we're not just a bunch of ragtag stoners. We're actually a group of smart , well-spoken, well-educated and compassionate people who just wanted to come together and share in an experience to celebrate how far we've come over the past 79 years of prohibition.”
Update: In an e-mail, Denver Fire Department public information officer Melissa Taylor wrote that two fire prevention marijuana inspectors responded to a request from the Denver police for assistance at Rigs 4 Us on Wednesday. “The inspectors directed the business owner to remove a twenty-pound propane tank from the basement, since compressed flammable gases are prohibited below grade," Taylor noted. "An order notice was issued to the business owner for storage of canisters containing butane aerosol in excess of the permissible amounts."
Taylor added that the inspectors found electrical wiring not up to code. As such, fire department personnel contacted the building department's electrical inspection unit for a “comprehensive inspection” to be carried out this week.