DENVER | Denver has extinguished the annual 4/20 marijuana rally at Civic Center Park for three years and fined organizers $20,000 after numerous complaints about trash and noise emanating from last month’s celebration.
Mayor Michael Hancock had ordered a review of the Annual Denver 4/20 Rally after photos showed the park and sidewalks strewn with garbage the morning after the April 20 event, held this year in the heart of the city on Thursday, a work day.
Letters to Denver officials criticizing the rally included one from Presiding Judge Elizabeth Leith, who works in the adjacent city and county building and said the event was “more disruptive” than last year’s Super Bowl parade for the Denver Broncos, which drew a million fans.
“After a thorough review of the event, substantial violations of city requirements were found,” Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, said in a letter posted Friday on Westword.
Rob Corry, an attorney for the 4/20 rally, released a statement denying that organizers had violated the a and said they would appeal the decision.
“Anything identified in Haynes’ letter as a violation is of a hypertechnical nature, and no actual problems, permanent damage, nor injuries occurring from the rally,” he said in a rebuttal on CBS4 in Denver.
He also accused city officials of harboring a politically motivated agenda against the popular marijuana fest.
“We understand that the city political structure disagrees with our message, and is using this process as a pretext to silence the message,” Mr. Corry said. “Every Civic Center event has similar features and none of these issues were identified in past years 420 events.”
Organizer Miguel Lopez previously had said that garbage bags from the event were sliced open overnight by a man with a knife, but Ms. Haynes said police reviewed camera footage taken in the park and “detected no such individual opening and distributing trash throughout the park in the manner you described.”
“Even if this had happened, your run of show states that permittee will clean the park between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m., with power washing to occur on April 21, 2017,” she said. “Leaving trash overnight in the park, even if it had been bagged, is not effective or timely removal of trash from the park.”
She also said the event manager had no trash receptacles in place for at least two hours after the start of the event and failed to empty them regularly; that a crowd broke down a fence due in part to a lack of security and checkpoints; that eight food vendors were not licensed and that security allowed some cars to park on sidewalks.
Mr. Corry disagreed: “Trash removal occurred within our specified time and we left the park cleaner than we received it.”
Complaints from those working at the judicial center centered primarily on the noise level from the bands. Two staffers said they suffered headaches as a result of the loud bass and rattling windows, while several offices closed early because of the “disruption and disturbance.”
“We have courtrooms that can’t even work because you can’t hear the parties,” said district court administrator Kelly Boe.
Mr. Corry said that organizers “followed all laws and permit conditions on sound and [the] Haynes letter admits that,” and while Ms. Haynes agreed that the noise level remained within the lawful range, the policy also forbids sound and vibration levels that “become a public nuisance.”
Police arrested five people at the event and gave out about 20 citations, while another two people were arrested after a gunshot was heard about a block away, according to the Denver Post.
Jeff Hunt, director of the conservative Centennial Institute, delivered a petition with 4,000 signatures to Mr. Hancock last week asking him to cancel the event, saying attendees and performers broke the law by smoking pot at the park.
Colorado became the first state along with Washington to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, but smoking in public is banned.
“Despite warnings, signage, and the presence of security and the Denver Police, marijuana was allowed to be consumed openly and publicly by many attendees, even in the presence of children and infants. Marijuana was also consumed on stage by performers with no action by law enforcement,” said Mr. Hunt in his letter to the city.
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