Marijuana: City expects 4/20 rally organizers to discourage pot smoking at festival
The literal high point of the annual Denver 4/20 rally at Civic Center Park comes at 4:20 p.m., when attendees light up simultaneously. But could this ritual be absent from the 2014 edition of festival? A few weeks back, rally attorney Rob Corry answered this question with a letter to Denver city officials that defiantly asserted attendees' right to smoke pot at the park. Then he retracted the document. And now, in an exchange with Denver City Attorney D. Scott Martinez, he back-pedals further -- although perhaps not as far as Martinez seems to think he has.
Photos and more below.
As we've reported, the original letter, shared here along with several other documents, asserts that Civic Center Park is the rally's home -- and since adults 21 and over in Colorado can legally smoke pot at home, they should be able to do so at the rally, too, despite a state law forbidding public consumption of cannabis.
An excerpt reads: "As the permit holder for Civic Center Park on April 19-20, 2014, and consequently the entity that 'occupies or controls' this property, my clients and I respectfully advise the City and County of Denver that we will be 'otherwise regulating' the 'possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana' by permitting the 'possession,' 'consumption,' 'use,' 'display,' 'transfer,' 'distribution,' and 'transportation' of marijuana by adults age 21+, and by 'prohibiting' the 'sale' and 'growing' of marijuana in the permitted area of Civic Center Park on April 19-20, 2014 during the permitted periods for the Annual 420 Rally."
Rob Corry at an anti-marijuana taxation rally last year.
The letter didn't thrill city councilman Charlie Brown, who suggested that the city respond to the letter by denying a festival permit to rally organizers, even if it means picking a legal fight.
Brown's response was presumably a factor in Corry's decision to rescind the original letter. In a second missive, also shared here, he wrote: "We sincerely apologize if the misinterpretation of our previous letter caused any confusion. Our intent was to clarify, not confuse. Our letter, though inartfully drafted, was a reaction to provocative statements about an alleged Police crackdown this year at 420. We realize now that we should not have taken that bait, and instead should have conducted ourselves on a higher plane."
Councilman Charlie Brown at a recent hearing on marijuana banking.
What followed was an exchange of correspondence between Corry and City Attorney Martinez; it's also reproduced below. In it, Martinez asks a couple of key questions, with the first of them reading: "You stated in your February 20 letter that persons could attend the event and publicly consume marijuana with impunity under the auspices of the permit. Do you no longer maintain this legal position?"
Corry's response? "Yes. As previously noted, we withdrew and rescinded in its entirety our previous letter that allegedly maintained this position, although the letter was misinterpreted and misconstrued. The Rally organizers will not be encouraging anyone to violate the law. Instead, we will make sure that all attendees are made aware that current law prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public."
The second Martinez question: "Can you assure us at this point that the organizers will explicitly foreswear any promotion of any unlawful activity at the 2014 event and will widely distribute information that the public consumption of marijuana at the festival is unlawful?"
Denver City Attorney D. Scott Martinez.
In this case, Corry's reply is more nuanced. He essentially pledges not to promote illegal activity and to distribute information to those who go to the festival informing them that public smoking is against the law. But if that appears to give him and main rally organizer Miguel Lopez some additional wiggle room should revelers decide to blaze anyhow, Martinez attempts to reduce it through interpretation.
"Furthermore," writes Martinez in a March 7 letter in our document collection below, "you now deny that the event organizers will permit or promote the unlawful consumption at the proposed 4/20 event. On the contrary, you agree that the event organizers will affirmatively discourage the consumption of marijuana at the 4/20 event."
There's quite a distance between agreeing not to promote illegal public smoking and affirmatively discouraging such consumption -- but a face-to-face chat between Corry and Martinez to bridge the gap won't be happening. Corry specifically asks for a sit-down in his March 5 note, but Martinez maintains that "such a meeting would serve no useful purpose at this point as I consider the legal issues regarding this matter to be closed."
Miguel Lopez, organizer of the 4/20 rally, at a free-joint giveaway in Civic Center Park last year.
That's cold -- but does it portend tension and a possible crackdown on April 20? We'll find out in a little more than a month.
Continue to read three letters from Rob Corry and one from Denver City Attorney D. Scott Martinez.