Denver protest draws 3,000 to toke for freedom |

Denver protest draws 3,000 to toke for freedom

George Plaven
The Denver Post

The sun shone brightly over Civic Center on Monday afternoon at 4:19. By 4:20, a thick fog was settling in.

Marijuana enthusiasts toked together during the annual 4-20 rally, chanting “freedom” as they let loose a hazy cloud of smoke from their lungs.

About 80 officers from the Denver Police Department stayed off to the park’s edges, concerned mainly with public safety. Spokesman Sonny Jackson said they made no drug-related arrests.

The crowd, which police estimated at between 2,500 and 3,000 but organizers said was much larger, began assembling well before it was time to light up. They took advantage of the warm weather and checked out vendors selling everything from pot-themed art and T-shirts to bottled water.

Groups of friends gathered in circles on the grass, sharing a joint or tossing a Frisbee. Many of them wore shirts, hats and jewelry decorated with pot leaves.

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Others stood closer to the Greek Amphitheater stage, taking in live music and speeches from activist groups seeking reformed marijuana laws. “Voice Your Choice” was the theme of the day.

“This event serves as a community assembly,” said activist Miguel Lopez, who organized the rally. “It shows that we have a cannabis culture here.”

A similar event was held in Boulder on the University of Colorado’s Norlin Quadrangle. CU Police Commander Tim McGraw said the size was comparable to last year, which was estimated at 10,000 people.

Just before the clock struck 4:20, Lopez said Denver would be a pioneer city in declaring, “We want to smoke our weed!” He was met with a roar of cheers as people dug pipes and lighters out of their pockets.

“The fact that police show up here dressed down, whereas they show up to CU football games in full riot gear, says a lot about the potential harms of marijuana and alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER.

Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, said the most compelling reason to change marijuana laws has to do with the economy.

Vicente cited a 2005 study from Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron that calculated Colorado could collect $17.6 million annually in new tax revenue if the state regulated marijuana sales.

The same study also calculated that Colorado spends about $65 million annually on law enforcement and judicial resources to prohibit marijuana.

“Our hope is that people will walk away from this rally armed with the knowledge to change these broken laws,” Vicente said.

George Plaven: 303-954-1638 or

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