Photos: CU-Boulder's 4/20 closure guards against "chaos," spokesman says

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Yesterday, we told you about the decision by administrators at CU-Boulder to close the campus on 4/20 for the third consecutive year; see our previous coverage below.

Presumably, there won't be much going on in the buildings near Norlin Quad (longtime ground zero of 4/20 at CU) on the date, given that April 20 corresponds with Easter Sunday this year -- and last year's closure was a non-event. So why go through the motions again? A CU-Boulder spokesman explains.

"This year, with all the attention on the law in Colorado and retail marijuana becoming legal here, we wanted to continue to secure the academic space against the kind of chaos the event brings," says Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a friend of yours truly). "And regardless of what happens in the external environments around Colorado and Denver, I think the general feeling is that it's going to take some time to die down completely as something students think about -- and something people from outside the community who come here for 4/20 think about."

At the same time, he continues, "the baseline reasons for doing this really haven't changed. We have faculty using the academic space seven days a week. Laboratories are right nearby and faculty regularly comes in over the weekend to work, to meet with colleagues and many other things. And that's what we're trying to secure without disruption."

The first year the campus was closed on 4/20, opponents reacted with a court fight in which the university prevailed -- and on the day itself, the boundary was breached and a handful of protesters were arrested. Year two, in contrast, went without incident.

"The officers who've secured the campus have been great," Hilliard stresses. "We haven't received any formal complaints about their conduct. They've been polite and professional, and so have the other agencies we've partnered with."

As such, a major confrontation this 4/20 seems unlikely, "but just in case, we will be prepared for a number of different scenarios," Hilliard says --including protests from people unhappy about the university enforcing a new no-smoking policy. The latter "has nothing to do with 4/20," he stresses. "We've been working to get no-smoking regulations for ten years, and we're one of the last major universities in the country to come up with this."

Hilliard declines to go into detail about law-enforcement plans, but acknowledges that "the general philosophy is the same as last year.

"It's always been part of our strategy on 4/20 that this would be a multi-year process," he continues. "We want to make this thing go away permanently on campus, and we haven't defined how long the horizon is on 'multi-year.' But we always knew it would be three or more years moving ahead."

Continue for our previous coverage of the upcoming campus closure at CU-Boulder, including a gallery of photos from the last big 4/20 event at the university. Original post, 9:53 a.m. April 3: CU-Boulder was once the setting for one of the planet's largest 4/20 celebrations. But after a massive blowout in 2011, administrators closed the campus in 2012, and did the same in 2013.

No surprise, then, that the university has announced the campus will be off-limits to visitors on this April 20, too.

Look below for the details, supplemented by photos of the way things used to be.

In 2012, CU took plenty of PR hits as a result of its campus-closure plan, which included the spreading of smelly fish fertilizer on Norlin Quad, the traditional ground zero for the 4/20 event. There was a court challenge, too -- and on the day itself, some revelers managed to breach the boundary, leading to three arrests.

But CU administrators branded the closure a success, and repeated it with minor adjustments a year later. The result was what a campus police spokesperson accurately termed a non-event.

Here's a photo from the CU-Boulder Police Facebook page from the date last year:

In all likelihood, 2014 will follow suit. After all, April 20 falls on Easter Sunday -- and given that organizers of the 4/20 rally at Civic Center Park in Denver are planning to move forward in identical fashion to previous years, there's certainly an alternative for cannabis fans who want to mark the time with alongside plenty of folks who believe as they do.

Continue for more photos from 4/20 at CU Boulder circa 2011, followed by a press release from the university outlining this year's planned closure. Continue for more photos from 4/20 at CU Boulder circa 2011, followed by a press release from the university outlining this year's planned closure. Continue for more photos from 4/20 at CU Boulder circa 2011, followed by a press release from the university outlining this year's planned closure. Continue for more photos from 4/20 at CU Boulder circa 2011, followed by a press release from the university outlining this year's planned closure. Continue to see a press release from the university outlining this year's planned closure. CU Boulder press release:

CU-Boulder closes campus to non-affiliates on April 20 for third straight year

The University of Colorado Boulder announced today it will be open to students, faculty and staff on Sunday, April 20, but for the third straight year will be closed to unauthorized non-affiliates.

"As we have said for years now, the 4/20 gathering is not welcome on our campus and has caused serious disruptions to our mission of research, teaching and learning," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. "This campus closure continues a multiyear plan to eliminate this gathering."

The main campus will be closed to non-affiliates from noon to 6 p.m. The Norlin Quad will be closed to everyone throughout the day. Even with the passage of Amendment 64 two years ago, state law does not allow pot smoking in public or possession of marijuana by those under 21.

CU-Boulder began these campus closure actions in April 2012. A Boulder judge upheld the university's right to take reasonable steps to avoid disruption of the university's academic mission. In 2012, the closure reduced a traditional 4/20 crowd of about 10,000 to 12,000 people to a gathering of several hundred. April 20, 2013, was a quiet day on campus with no arrests and no one entering the Norlin Quad.

A campus committee, whose members include leaders of the CU Student Government, has met for the past several months to discuss this year's 4/20 operations. CUSG members have said they want the spontaneous 4/20 gathering to end, but have also expressed concerns and provided input on the planning process. CUSG also wants continued academic dialogue on drug policies and is planning a symposium on those topics for March or early April.

"With the passage of Amendment 64 and now the launch of retail marijuana sales, we believe there is plenty to discuss and debate about drug policies," said Chris Schaefbauer, CUSG's president of student affairs. "But that should take place in a thoughtful, academic setting - not among thousands of disruptive people on the Norlin Quad."

DiStefano said the CU administration supports the students' efforts to spur debate on drug policies.

"CU-Boulder is a place where academic debate and the free exchange of ideas have always been welcomed and encouraged," he said. "I applaud the students for continuing this dialogue."

This year on Sunday, April 20, the following measures will be in place:

• Students, faculty and staff are all welcome on campus and invited to make use of university facilities as they always do.

• Students, faculty and staff will be asked to present their Buff OneCard IDs at campus entrances and other areas.

• Consistent with prior years' protocol, law enforcement officers will politely and professionally engage those wishing to enter the campus to ascertain if they are affiliates or approved visitors. This will involve checking Buff OneCards for students, faculty and staff and credentials for registered visitors. Those unaffiliated with CU-Boulder, or who are not approved visitors, will not be permitted on campus.

• Visitors who have official business, meetings or other officially sanctioned activities on the CU-Boulder campus will need to obtain a visitor's pass. More details on that process will be announced soon.

Funding for the campus security measures comes from insurance rebates to the campus, not from tuition, student fees or taxpayer funds.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive: "4/20 in Boulder preview: 'An orgasm of cannabis consumption.'"

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