April 20th is a global holiday. People all over the world, even if they do not partake know about the celebrations and marches in the thousands that show up in support of legalization. Denver, Colorado is one such place and is a place where cannabis has been largely accepted, but that does not mean that there isn’t still a large community of people who oppose both the consumption of and the celebratory events that surround the flower. Denver’s Mayor, is one of those people. Mayor Michael Hancock’s opinion on marijuana has gone back and forth and many are attributing the three year ban, $11,965 fine and $190 in damages charged to the organizers of Denver’s 4/20 event as an unjust bias rather than legitimate city concerns.
Five main concerns were plugged in an 11-page letter addressed to event organizer Miguel Lopez and attorney Robert Corry by Parks and Recreation and Mayor Hancock.
- Four noise complaints
- Untimely trash removal
- Limited security guards
- Unlicensed food vendors
- Street closures
At first glance these seem like legitimate reasons for concern, especially after seeing the aftermath of trash the following morning but, there are two sides to every story. Let us break them down.
The organizers were never notified of any noise complaints, which the city acknowledged in page 2 of the 11-page notice to Lopez and Corry saying “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.” When speaking with Corry he explained that not only did the city acknowledge that the event did not violate any noise ordinances but they knew the size of the speakers and that the event was going to be hosting a concert with a Grammy award winning artist, 2 Chainz, for free.
Though this is simple speculation, one has to wonder if there wasn’t any mention of noise complaints because any given event in that area would spur a few noise complaints. Also, due to the fact that it was a celebratory event for a plant that some do not agree with, the city expected a few complaints.
Street closures were claimed to be a factor but if this is true then why did the city approve of them in the first place. Law enforcement anticipated anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 attendees. This is an annual event that Denver residents are informed of in advance every year with information about road closures and alternative routes.
Inadequate security guards were another reason for the three-year ban on the organizer’s event. Police Chief Robert stated that he had concerns about people sneaking in contraband. The day of the event officers cited or arrested 48 people at the event, predominately for consumption, which is something that occurs every year and is down from 79 the previous year. The organizers were told that they needed to have four staff members and two security guards at each entrance for which they complied and both companies hired to provide security can corroborate the fact that they were there and that the issue raised about the fencing falling was fixed within minutes of it happening, according to Corry.
There is also the issue of gunfire reported that officials claimed was somehow related to the event. Two individuals who were suspected were arrested—both of which were entirely unrelated to the 4/20 event. Organizers had this to say about these allegations:
“The rally will not be blamed for an alleged shooting outside of and unassociated with the rally,” says the statement, drafted by attorney Robert Corry. “In fact, the rally complied with the city’s demand that it hire security crews to hand-wand all members of the public entering Civic Center Park, which caused huge lines and some frustration.”
The main point of concern and complaint not only by Mayor Hancock but by the residents of Denver as a whole was the untimely trash mess that was present the morning after the event. This was perceived as outright disrespect for the space provided, but in fact that does not seem to be the case.
Due to the fact that the cleanup crews were told to leave the park before midnight they were unable to finish cleaning up the night of the event. What was cleaned up was rummaged through by the local homeless. One crew was even threatened with a knife by someone found ripping through the trash according to spokeswoman Grace Lopez Ramirez of the Denver special events office, which is confirmed by police spokesman Sonny Jackson.
Event organizers are required to submit trash and cleanup plans and with that comes a time frame. The timeframe given to the organizers was April 20th through 5pm on April 21st. The following morning, April 21st the cleanup crews showed up, cleaned up and were done by 11am, before the end of that timeframe. Page 91 states this clearly. Which means, this complaint holds no weight either. The cleanup was done within the timeframe given.
There is some validity to the claim that there were unlicensed food vendors. After speaking with attorney Rob Corry he explained that of the 170 approved vendors they discovered that eight did not have the appropriate licensing. After asking those vendors to leave and at the beginning of the event, they did.
If the only truly valid claim that the city has brought against the organizers was handled at the beginning of the event without conflict, then why the three-year ban and fines? Each of the other complaints come down to bad planning on the part of the city not the organizers. The city allowed for that caliber of sound, the city allowed for road closures, the city only required that the event have four event staff and two security guards at each entrance (which the organizers were in compliance with) and the city allowed a cleanup time that spanned until 5pm the following day. After hearing both sides of the issue it would seem as though the city needs to reevaluate the requirements in which they expect events to be ran as well as revoke the three-year ban because to be blunt, the city’s claims seem to have gone up in smoke once the details were hashed out.