Marijuana: Denver 4/20 festival argues Civic Center Park is its home, so smoking is allowed

The Denver Police Department has historically looked the other way in regard to marijuana smoking during the annual 4/20 rally at Civic Center Park. But as we reported a few days back, rally organizers are concerned about threats to issue citations this year -- so much so that fest attorney Rob Corry has sent a letter to Denver's mayor and members of city council (see it below) offering a unique argument for why this activity should be permitted: smoking is allowed at home, and the park is the rally's home. Corry, who was himself cited for public pot smoking at Coors Field last September, notes in the letter that he was among those who helped draft Amendment 64, the measure that allows adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of marijuana. As such, he argues that those behind the law intended to promote "the efficient use of law enforcement resources," as well as "individual freedom," when it comes to cannabis.

He then quotes a passage from the amendment establishing that any entity that "occupies, owns or controls a property" has the right to regulate marijuana use there as a way of underscoring the maxim, "A man's home is his castle." And, he adds, "On 4/20, Denver's Civic Center Park is our 'Castle.'"

The letter adds: "As the permit holder for Civic Center Park on April 19-20, 2014, and consequently the entity that 'occupies or controls' this property, my clients and I respectfully advise the City and County of Denver that we will be 'otherwise regulating' the 'possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana' by permitting the 'possession,' 'consumption,' 'use,' 'display,' 'transfer,' 'distribution,' and 'transportation' of marijuana by adults age 21+, and by 'prohibiting' the 'sale' and 'growing' of marijuana in the permitted area of Civic Center Park on April 19-20, 2014 during the permitted periods for the Annual 420 Rally."

Is this assertion simply a political chess move meant to stave off a crackdown or a legally plausible position? Continue for more about the possibility of citations at this year's 4/20 rally, including the complete Rob Corry letter. The latter, Corry claims: He maintains that the distribution of the letter "would furnish a plausible defense to anyone cited for marijuana-related offenses during the Rally."

He also says he will continue his policy of offering free legal assistance to anyone cited for marijuana smoking at the rally, no matter how many of them there are.

Of course, politics are hardly absent from the missive. Corry subsequently takes a shot at "a fringe minority fraction of the Denver City Council," which "has engaged in irresponsibly belligerent threats about an alleged increased Police enforcement of petty offenses this year at the 420 Rally." He also scoffs at the assertion that Civic Center Park is "an urban 'crown jewel' where parents can take their children to picnic." No families with children picnic there, he allows, because "the only times that park is safe is during permitted events. Otherwise, the City has abdicated any interest in protecting and valuing this space, and has surrendered it."

The bottom line from Corry's perspective: 4/20 is "a Marijuana Holiday," and "attempts to stop such reality would be unwise, wasteful, excessive, unnecessary, potentially dangerous, and would contribute to an erosion of public respect for law enforcement. Denver Police might as well try to stop public consumption of alcohol by tailgaters in the parking lot before a Bronco game. Such would be equally ridiculous and absurd."

Here's the complete letter:

Denver 420 Festival Letter

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa February 17: "Denver 4/20 rally 2014 preview: Peaceful message -- and pot-smoking citations?"

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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