420 is not just a number but also a date celebrated by marijuana enthusiasts across the country. In Denver Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal and enjoyed by many, the date is celebrated with the 420 Rally, a large street festival that has food, entertainment and education. Unfortunately, following this year’s celebration, event organizers were told that they are banned from putting on any events for the next 3 years. They were fined and handed a list of reasons for the ban. Every single point on the list, however, was very easily disputed and event organizers are formally appealing the city’s decision.
Contradictions About Noise Complaints
Noise complaints were among the reasons for the ban, although the notice sent to the organizers stated, “The City acknowledges that your noise levels were checked periodically throughout the day… and confirm that, according to The DEH, your noise did not violate this ordinance.” They also confirm that they knew the size of the speakers and knew that a Grammy award winning artist would be performing for free for the event.
Other Reported Issues
Road closures were reported to be an issue, although they were all approved by the city and residents were given plenty of advance notice and alternate routes. Law enforcement expected anywhere between 50,000 to 80,000 attendees of the event.
Law enforcement complained that there was not enough security on hand. Of the 50,000 or so attendees they arrested 48 people for consumption, down from 79 last year. The organizers were told that they needed to put 4 staff and 2 security guards at each entrance, which they did. Staff and security looked over each entrance, checking for contraband.
Another listed issue was the presence of unlicensed food vendors. Of the 140 approved food vendors, 8 did not have licenses. They were asked to leave at the start of the event and so all of those unlicensed food vendors left immediately. The issue was solved before it could even be considered a problem.
Dispute Over Cleanup Time
The biggest complaint by the mayor and residents was untimely trash removal. Event organizers were asked to submit a cleanup plan with the timeline for trash removal. It gave organizers until 5PM on April 21st to have the entire space clean. The cleanup crews had the space completely clean by 11AM on the 21st of April. They were asked to leave the event space by midnight on the 20th so they couldn’t complete the job until the next day. During the night, homeless people in the area broke open the trash and tore through it. One even pulled a knife on someone in the cleaning crew which was an incident confirmed by law enforcement. The cleaning crew did return in the morning though and the space was completely clean by 11AM, well before the given deadline.
The event organizer’s response included this statement: “The 420 Rally is singled out improperly because of the City and County’s hostility and animus against our message; our taste in music, culture, and art; our participants; our organizational leadership and their history of political activism; and because of actions of third parties, who generate the legendary ‘cloud of smoke’ every year, but who are persons unaffiliated with the Rally’s leadership and organization.” Rally leaders will not be giving up the celebration so easily. Time will tell whether they will succeed in protecting the much loved event for next year.