CU to students: Don't go to 4/20 marijuana smoke-out

By chillinwill · Apr 18, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    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
    Daily Camera

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  1. chillinwill
    No possession tickets issued during CU's 4/20 smokeout

    Campus police estimate crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 at unofficial event

    BOULDER, Colo. — Balloon artist Mary Tester twisted together green marijuana leaves for people to wear as crowns during the annual 4/20 smokeout Monday on the University of Colorado’s campus.

    Call her craft pot heads for the potheads.

    Norlin Quad became the stage of a pot-smoker’s picnic as an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people packed on to the field to protest drug laws, play Hacky Sack to the tune of Bob Marley, and, in some cases, just stand back and take pictures with their camera phones.

    At 4:20 p.m., a cloud of smoke hovered over the field, and the forecast above Norlin turned to foggy. The sound of drum beats, and coughing, echoed through the field.

    “I think it’s awesome — especially when that cloud rises up over the crowd and you know that everyone is doing the same thing at the same time,” said Ryan Van Loo, who came from Arapahoe Community College in Littleton to attend the with a group of friends.

    “Usually people are so low-key about smoking, but this is the one day of the year that everyone can come out in the open and do it together.”

    No tickets were issued for marijuana possession at the event, CU police Cmdr. Tim McGraw said. He said authorities treated nine people for alcohol or drug overdoses, and police discouraged non-licensed vendors selling food and apparel.

    Possessing small amounts of marijuana is a petty crime carrying a $100 fine. (Littering could be more expensive.)

    CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the smoke-out is difficult to squelch because there are so many non-students who flood the campus. The unofficial event becomes like a concert, spectacle and drug-law protest, he said.

    “It’s an event we don’t like,” he said. “We don’t sponsor it or support it. We inherit it.”

    Still, the celebration went down smoothly, with little backlash from CU.

    “It wouldn’t be a good idea to go in and confront a crowd this size,” Hilliard said.

    University administrators, employees and students will meet in coming weeks to talk about ways to handle future 4/20 celebrations. Past strategies have included turning sprinklers on, barricading a campus field and taking photos of pot smokers, posting them online and offering cash rewards to identify the tokers caught on film.

    This year, Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano sent an e-mail to students asking them to not participate because the event tarnishes the reputation of their school.

    Troy Johnson, a junior political science major, agrees. He waded through the crowd of pot smokers with a poster that said: “Smoking marijuana makes you stupid.”

    “Not everyone in Boulder smokes marijuana,” he said. “This is kind of embarrassing for our school.”

    His friend Garrett Graff, a sophomore business major, held a sign that said marijuana is an illegal drug. Graff, who is from Jefferson County, said 4/20 should be a day to commemorate victims of the Columbine High School tragedy.

    But protesters made their public pitch that cannabis is harmless and should be legal.

    Aaron Rael, 34, of Longmont, who said he has a head injury, said marijuana is a natural painkiller and better than prescription drugs.

    “It’s the best medicine out there,” he said after smoking with the masses at 4:20 p.m.

    Jordan Martinez, 18, celebrated the cannabis culture with a puff of pot, too. He said marijuana should be legal.

    “You can do everything with it,” he said. “Like build houses, save rain forests and make food.”

    He pointed to the crowd, and noted how calm everybody was acting.

    Participants, who began gathering hours before the smoke-out, threw Frisbees, blew bubbles and broke out in the occasional dance.

    “We’ve just been sitting out in the sun, enjoying the weather and watching people,” said Kate Francisco, who traveled with a friend to CU from Rochester, N.Y., to attend CU’s 4/20 celebration.

    “My brother goes to school here and we came out to Boulder to visit him while we’re on spring break — and we decided to come out for 4/20, too,” said Kyndle Caligris, Francisco’s friend.

    In keeping with the counter-cultural spirit of the holiday, many students and attendees dressed to the nines for the occasion, adorning themselves in everything from weed-beaded Mardi Gras necklaces to tie-dye and other traditional hippie garb.

    One man dressed as a cow. When asked why, he responded: “Moo.”

    And, of course, there was money to be made for entrepreneurs. With a variety of vendors peddling their wares around campus, attendees showed up in T-shirts bearing slogans such as “Stone Age,” “Colorado Puffs,” “4:20” and “I (Bong) CO.”

    Those who were selling such novelties, T-shirts, and souvenirs, however, had more to worry about in terms of police intervention than did those who were actually lighting up.

    “The cops just targeted us and flocked around us,” said Katie Gustafson, co-founder of Denver-based Yeah No T-Shirts, after campus police wrote her a $250 ticket for selling the shirts without a tax license. “We tried telling them that we’re not selling weed, but they were like ‘What you’re doing is more serious than selling weed.’”

    By Brittany Anas and Lance Vaillancourt
    April 20, 2009
    Daily Camera
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