Campus plans minimal enforcement of Monday's pot celebration
BOULDER, Colo. — From dousing pot smokers with sprinklers to posting incriminating photos online, University of Colorado officials seemingly have tried everything to snuff the annual 4/20 smoke-out on the Boulder campus.
This year, they're just delivering a simple message to students: Don't go.
Campus officials this week sent the entire student body an e-mail -- signed by interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano and others -- urging them to "choose not to participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of your university and degree."
With last year's April 20 celebration having drawn more than 10,000 marijuana enthusiasts to the Norlin Quadrangle, CU's leaders are wary about Monday's event sparking more bad press for the university.
"A gathering of thousands on our campus for the sole purpose of engaging in unlawful activity is contrary to everything that CU-Boulder stands for and is in no way condoned," DiStefano wrote in the e-mail.
To some CU students, however, the attempt to quash interest in 4/20 is misguided.
"I believe it is a peaceful way to demonstrate against what is probably the most laughable and unenforceable law in the United States," junior Oliver DiLivio said. "While I partly go for the spectacle, I do believe there needs to be some reform in regard to this country's drug policy."
For their part, CU police officials are taking the same stance as last year, when they issued zero tickets -- despite the massive crowd of pot smokers.
"I don't think it will turn into any significant enforcement -- primarily because we're dealing with a Class 2 petty offense, the lowest designation of crime there is in Colorado," Cmdr. Tim McGraw said. "Our primary focus is on the overall safety of the crowd."
To that end, McGraw warned that students bringing objects to the rally that could be construed as potentially injurious -- such as trampolines, slacklines or glass items -- would give officers more of an incentive to become involved.
"We may ticket a whole bunch of people; we may ticket no one," McGraw said. "We'll just have to wait to see what unfolds in front of us and act accordingly."
This year's event -- held at the traditional time of 4:20 p.m. April 20 -- will be preceded by the National Forum on Marijuana, a weekend conference on campus hosted by the CU chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Guest speakers at the event include Jessica Peck Corry, who was behind last year's ballot measure to end affirmative action on Colorado college campuses; Cmdr. Tom Sloan of the Boulder County Drug Task Force; and Steve Bloom, the founding editor of High Times magazine.
Student organizers said they hope to present a balanced approach to such subjects as the history of marijuana prohibition, medical marijuana, marijuana law reform and a host of other related topics.
"We're really excited to be bringing in speakers from all over the country for this," said Alex Douglas, executive director of CU's chapter of NORML. "Anyone that goes will be informed, enlightened and empowered by this unbiased forum where every side of the issue is presented."
Because of the increased media attention from last year's event, Douglas said that he believes Monday's 4/20 smoke-out may draw as many as 15,000 attendees -- although it is on a weekday, unlike last year's event.
Still, Douglas encouraged any who show up to keep the event's main principle in mind.
"The most important thing about 4/20 is that students are engaging in a much larger social movement, so if you are a student and you decide to participate in this event, think about the global and national meaning of what you're actually doing," Douglas said. "This is your chance to stand up for what you believe in."
CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard disagreed.
"The event is not, in our mind, an act of protesting drug laws," Hilliard said. "It's got much more of a party atmosphere than it does a political one ... I don't think any outside people watching it would view it as a political protest.
"I think they would just view it as a giant smoke-out."
By Lance Vaillancourt
April 16, 2009