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.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.