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Denver's Latest Strategy to Kill the Denver 420 Rally

Denver city officials are attempting to ban the rally's longtime organizers from staging the event for at least the next three years.
Denver city officials are attempting to ban the rally's longtime organizers from staging the event for at least the next three years.
Photo by William Breathes

Organizers of the Denver 420 Rally have been prohibited from applying for a Denver event permit for three years as a result of complaints about security and cleanup issues at this year's edition, and their priority status with the city was rescinded. Attorney Rob Corry, representing lead planner Miguel Lopez and his team, will formally appeal the decision at a hearing scheduled at 9 a.m. today, September 19, and he says the city's pre-hearing statement, accessible below, includes a new and suspect tactic to justify actions that he sees as totally unreasonable.

City rules state that priority status for event organizers can be revoked if five violations are found to have taken place. Corry told us during a May interview that he felt the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Denver agency running point on the ban effort, had trumped up charges in order to reach this total. And now he's even more certain that's the case, given that the accusations have changed.

"Much of these filings are of a routine nature," he notes via email. "But the interesting uptake is that the city has backed away from claiming any violation for 'noise' at all."

This makes sense to Corry. As he pointed out previously, Denver officials acknowledged by letter that the 2017 rally's sound system, which pumped out music by headliner 2 Chainz and other assorted musical acts and DJs, didn't exceed a previously agreed upon decibel standard. Moreover, producer Santino Walter says officials didn't contact the stage manager during the event to complain about sound levels. Instead, the letter cited complaints from people at the nearby Denver courthouse submitted after the festival was over.

Attorney Rob Corry and Denver 420 Rally organizer Miguel Lopez.
Attorney Rob Corry and Denver 420 Rally organizer Miguel Lopez.
Photo by Michael Roberts

Without the noise claim, the number of violations falls short of the five needed for a ban, Corry confirms — but "to get to its desired five violations, the city now claims two separate trash violations: one for failure to comply with 'managing' trash and one for failure to 'clean up' trash."

Asks Corry: "Managing is distinct from cleaning up? Sounds like double-counting. The original notice of violations from May 19 obviously identified noise as a violation, went on for pages about it, and was formally listed as the first of the city's 'most significant concerns.'"

In Corry's view, "the shifting nature of the city's theory bolsters our contention that Denver first formulated its desire to ban Miguel Lopez from holding future rallies due to dislike of him personally, of those who attend and of our message and of marijuana in general, then concocted hyper-technicalities and a cynical social-media campaign to prop up the city's desired result."

This morning's hearing sets up a showdown over this subject and others that Corry insists he tried to avoid. But he also makes it clear that he's ready to take additional action if the ban is upheld.

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Some of the trash at Civic Center Park the morning after the 2017 Denver 420 Rally.
Some of the trash at Civic Center Park the morning after the 2017 Denver 420 Rally.
Photo by Michael Roberts

"My client and I have reached out to the city and its attorneys in an effort to find some acceptable middle ground to settle and resolve this matter," he allows, "with each side compromising somewhat on their respective positions, and without the need for...possible district court litigation thereafter."

Concludes Corry: "We feel confident that any neutral fact-finder reviewing the city's shifting position will determine that the most extreme penalty ever assessed in the history of Denver should not be upheld on the flimsy technical allegations from actions that caused no harm to anyone."

Click to read the pre-hearing statement from Denver Parks and Recreation, as well as one from the Denver 420 Rally organizers.

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