DENVER – Once the province of activists and stoners, the traditional pot holiday of April 20 has gone mainstream in Colorado, the first U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Tens of thousands gathered for a weekend of cannabis-themed festivals and entertainment, from a marijuana industry expo called the Cannabis Cup to 4/20-themed concerts to a massive festival near the state capitol.
Police didn’t swoop in for mass arrests at 4:20 p.m. Sunday, the moment for the traditional smoke-out marking the holiday.
Although it is still against the law to publicly smoke marijuana in Colorado, police only reported 47 citations for public marijuana consumption on Sunday. They said they had issued 21 citations on Saturday. One person was arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempting to distribute the drug.
The pot holiday started as a defiant gathering of marijuana activists, but this year the event had an official city permit, was organized by an events management company and featured booths selling food, hemp lollipops and glass pipes.
Gavin Beldt, one of the organizers, said in a statement that the event is now a “celebration of legal status for its use in Colorado and our launch of an exciting new experience for those attending.”
Elsewhere, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said his officers would be cracking down on illegal parking, camping, drug sales, underage drinking and open alcohol containers at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill. Officials didn’t want the unofficial pot holiday to disrupt Easter Sunday activities.
In Canada, the pot-smoking movement took on marijuana prohibition with rallies across the country. Police estimated that more than 2,000 people gathered on the lawn on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Hundreds turned out at rallies in Vancouver and Toronto.
Pot activist Jodie Emery said there has been a huge spike in interest as the experiment plays out in Colorado and Washington state.
“I can tell you from my spot as being a pot activist for 10 years in Vancouver, the last year has been insane — even in Canada — with respect to licensed providers and all these companies trying to be the next big thing,” Emery said.
On Saturday in Denver, thousands lingered on the broad lawns near the capitol, listening to hip-hop music blasting from the sound stage and enjoying the marijuana-scented air.
Last year’s event was marred by an unsolved shooting that wounded three. This year, a fence ringed the park. Security guards in protective gear roamed the grounds, and all entrants were being checked for weapons.
The whole scene was wonderfully surreal for Bud Long, 49, from Michigan, who recalled taking part in his first 4/20 protest in 1984. “Nationwide, it’ll be decriminalized,” he predicted, “and we’ll be doing this in every state.”