CU-Boulder 4/20 student protesters: Case dropped after they volunteer for Amendment 64

Gabriel Kuettel.jpg
Big photos below.
CU-Boulder closed Norlin Quad as part of its attempt to shrink the annual 4/20 event on campus. Three CU students were cited for trespassing on the Quad that day, with lawyer Sean McAllister defending them on First Amendment grounds. Now, the case has been dismissed after the students did a few hours of community service -- volunteering for Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. McAllister is thrilled by the outcome.

"I've never had a case where they offered this kind of thing -- offered to dismiss if the defendants would work for the cause they were protesting for," McAllister says.

0420_bouldercampus_017.jpg
Photo by Britt Chester
In the wake of the decision, McAllister concedes that his clients -- Gabriel Kuettel, Jonathan Edwards and John Demopoulos -- "were clearly guilty of trespassing. But they did it for a principled reason. They didn't like the university's suppression of the First Amendment.

"As we've said all along, the university over-reacts to the 4/20 smoke-out event every year. But this year, their actions were over the top. Everyone knows what they did: They wasted a quarter-million dollars trying to keep the smoke-out off the Norlin Quad, but all they ended up doing was pushing the event two blocks away to a different quad, where students smoked marijuana without any incident."

With that said, McAllister admits that had the case gone to trial, "it would have been very difficult to win based on an argument that the First Amendment exempts this kind of activity. We probably would have relied on jury nullification -- to accept that they committed a crime by crossing this closed area, but to let them off because of their reasons for doing it."

The possibility of a Boulder jury accepting this argument likely convinced Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett's office to look for an exit strategy, McAllister believes. But before then, he thinks various agencies "wasted a lot of money and time" going after Kuettel and company in the first place. "First, the municipal government wanted to prosecute, and then they decided they didn't want to do it; they probably thought it was too complicated on some of these First Amendment grounds. So it was sent to the county, and the DA's office picked it up, meaning they had to refile in county court -- which cost even more money."

Continue to read more about the dismissal of the 4/20 protesters' case, plus photos from the event.



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3 comments
James Ryan Hamilton
James Ryan Hamilton

What's the alternative, admit that marijuana is harmless and protesting is ok? I don't think so!

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Michael, jury nullification isn't an argument that can be put to a jury -- in Colorado, which is no bastion of Liberty (unlike the Granite State, where juries are now allowed to consider the application of the law).  There is a certain, small-but-tasty irony in the system contenting itself with the arrestees' work on behalf of ending Prohibition, but I hope that they and other students will organize to deal with the root of the problem, which is the people presently maladministering the University and their misperceptions about students' use of cannabis and 4/20, among many other subjects.

 

The University has engaged in a series of ineptitudes:  hiring Ward Churchill to head a department, firing him only because his rantings made it politically expedient to do so, bending the Administration's efforts to the suppression of 4/20 and cannabis in the face of an utter lack of evidence that it presents a problem, and despite the school's historical problem with alcohol and incestuous relationship with alcohol-peddlers.  While the Administration obsessed about cannabis and even closed the campus, people who think classrooms would be safer with more handguns in them were infiltrating.  Now that anyone may carry guns on campus the only reason this hasn't completely blown up is that the gun proponents have not pressed the issue -- yet.

 

The Administration's closure of campus to visitors to suppress dissent and its misdirection of money and effort to fight 4/20 has in no way redounded to an improvement in anyone's opinion of the University.  I consider that the opposite is the case, not least because so many recognize that the University faces real challenges that have absolutely nothing to do with cannabis.  The University of Colorado must find some leaders worthy of the grandiloquent titles, fancy suits, and munificent, publicly-paid salaries we are doling out.  It is outrageous that princely sums go to grandstanding retrogrades like Distefano, who imagines that his brief includes crusading against cannabis, while Colorado spends less to educate a college student than it does a second-grader, and students' debt is soaring.  The Chancellor should be devoting his efforts to securing State support for higher education, especially since Colorado now ranks 49th in the nation!  UC's reputation is being imperilled by an Administration so alienated from the fundamental concerns of students and citizens, and if students take the lead in objecting to this misrule, people off campus will take notice.

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