Denver loves the smell of marijuana in the morning — especially on April 20. It’s sort of a hometown holiday: What’s now a celebration was for years a populist protest, a downtown demonstration demanding that everyone just chill, puff-puff-pass, and then fight to make weed legal. While the date still has some legislative goals, 4/20 is now more about recognizing pot rights and taking advantage of those rights in party-on fashion. (Here's a complete calendar of all the 2018 4/20 events.)
Most holidays have harbingers: valentines and candy in February; costumes and candy in October; ornaments, toys and candy in December. (Candy is clearly pretty much a holiday standard, but we have pot candy every day of the year — thanks, edibles!) So what are the signs that it's 4/20 in Denver? Here are ten things you’re likely to see today:
10. Cops Are Everywhere
Just because personal use has been legalized in Denver doesn’t mean that public use has been — and the DPD is well aware of the limitations. While there's likely to be a little leniency this weekend, especially at the various celebrations around town, a word to the wise: There's no guarantee. Flaunt it, get a little cocky, dare a cop to arrest you? They might well oblige. And you definitely don’t want to partake and then try to drive — that’s never been legalized, and shouldn’t be. Which leads us to the next item on the list…
9. Uber Gets Uber-Busy (Lyft, Too)
Folks smoking ‘em if they got ‘em will be the thing this weekend, but that means there’s going to be a lot more demand for ride services in town, especially now that both Uber and Lyft have committed to discounted pricing. And there’s always RTD — light rail and buses — and cabs. Or designated drivers. Partake responsibly, folks.
8. Pot Puns Become Prevalent
Marketing is a weird thing — and a lot of it has to do with bandwagoning. People like this song? Let’s put it in our ad. Facebook is popular? Let’s use it to sell insurance. Hey, people like dogs: Let's put dogs in every commercial, and maybe make some of them talk! (Even Wes Anderson is guilty of this.) And so it is with marijuana, which becomes the touchstone for any and all business entities that want to seem relevant to the moment, from state universities to local museums to Cheba Hut.
7. Yes, Even Cosplay
I don’t want to suggest that there’s absolutely no connection between pirates and pot — I’m sure pirates loved a good joint just as much as the rest of us — but clearly the draw of cosplay has reached new heights here. Maybe it’s just a good way to justify the expense of a custom-fit tri-corner hat and a period-accurate cutlass, or maybe it's just a decent excuse to get the parrot out of the house (that sounds like a euphemism, but it’s not). But this year, celebrations come with cosplay. Embrace the (reefer) madness.
6. Reefer Madness Looks Back
Speaking of Reefer Madness, the seminal (and unintentionally hilarious) pot-propaganda flick from 1936 has been adapted for the stage. The Bug Theatre shows run weekends through April, but tickets are getting limited. Remember: The dread "marihuana" may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter…or yours…or YOURS. Or, you know, you and me and Grandma and pretty much everyone we know.
5. Everyone Digs Out Their Bob Marley Tees
Or whatever pot-themed novelty tee they have buried at the bottom of the drawer, where it's been since last April. Because some things are sacred, and on 4/20, Bob Marley is the reigning saint. Tie-dye headgear optional.
4. A Run on Snack Foods
What’s your pleasure? (Or rather, the snack-pleasure that your pot-pleasure invites?) Cheese balls? Taco Bell? I knew a guy who would eat two or three cans of Pringles every time he got high. (He preferred the pizza flavor, but would generally eat anything. Seriously, we once put a churro in an old can, and he ate it without hesitation, later commenting that “those Pringles were weird.”) How many of us will be taking a run for the border this weekend? More than usual, I’d wager. Yo quiero 4/20.
3. Glass Pipes Break Out of the Head Shops
Pipes have come a long way since the days when head shops pretended they were used primarily for tobacco. Those signs might still be up on the wall for legal reasons (and because they painted that wall, and if they take down the sign, there’ll just be a beige square there), but it’s not like there’s much of a mystery anymore as to what these beautiful little works of art are meant to do. Mandatory dishonesty: one of the first victims of revolution.
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2. Civic Center Park Preps for Invasion
Last year’s 420 event in Civic Center Park was sort of a disaster, at least according to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “This past Friday, our city woke up to one of our most treasured and highly regarded public spaces left in an unacceptable state, covered in trash," Hancock said at a press conference on April 24, 2017. "What we saw here at Civic Center Park last week was unacceptable, and changes have to be made to ensure responsible, safe events in our city." What those changes will look like in real time, only today will tell.
1. Conspicuous Public Consumption
Smoke smart, everyone, even in public. You won’t be alone.