Civic Center Park is covered in trash on April 21, 2017, the morning after the 4/20 marijuana event was held at the park in Denver, Colorado. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Opinion: It’s past time for Denver’s 4/20 to grow up and be cool

Denver Post Op-ed

The following editorial was published in The Denver Post, April 25:

Organizers, and too many participants, of Denver’s 4/20 cannabis celebration last week made a mess of things in more ways than one. As the eyes of the world, and of the Trump administration, potentially focused on our fair city, the high-holiday bacchanal got out of hand.

Impatient revelers crashed fences, broke reasonable rules about public consumption and once again went out of their way to personify as many negative stereotypes about marijuana as they could manage.

The list of regrettable and gross misdeeds includes leaving Civic Center — Denver’s front lawn — something of a trash heap for workers, residents and visitors to consider as thanks for our awfully open-minded legal-cannabis system.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is right to be angry about the “disrespectful state” in which revelers left the park.

“Our parks and public spaces are held in the public trust,” the mayor said in a press conference inside Civic Center. “When you leave our parks trashed, you violate the public trust.”

Hancock is right to order a review of the breakdown so that future 4/20 festivals, and other gatherings, don’t fall into this kind of debauchery.

While organizers can argue they met their deadline in cleaning up the trash, the carefully parsed excuse hardly registers in the court of public opinion. More worrisome were the pathetic lines caused by insufficiently equipped security staff that led to mass fence-crashing. The need for adequate public safety in these turbulent times requires no explanation.

With the trash, the security breaches and the irreverence, the implicit message from the event was that civic concerns just didn’t matter.

It’s past time 4/20 grew up. We get that the festival’s roots grow from the bad old days, when pot users were routinely sent off to jail and prison. Pre-legalization rallies served as non-violent civil disobedience that sought to shine a light on the issue. And certainly, following legalization here, we get it that revelers would want to get their freak on in celebration. No doubt, fears of a crackdown from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions contributed to this season’s baser instincts.

But times have changed and the festival ought to evolve with them. It has now been more than three years since legal recreational pot businesses opened their doors in Colorado. Residents and elected officials here have been more than kind to the experiment. Just this week, for example, the City Council granted pot businesses the right to stay open later than 7 p.m., effective May 1. Voters last year passed an initiative that allows some businesses to offer consumption.

Another consideration: This past festival ended up being a stick in the eye to the multitude of responsible cannabis business owners and ganjapreneurs who have gone to great lengths to keep up a respectable image.

For those who think there is something magical about smoking up publicly at 4:20 p.m. on April 20, we say: Get over yourself. Think back to the first days of legal sales. Cameras from all over the world waited in vain to see Denver and Colorado collapse into exactly the kind of nonsense the just-passed 4/20 celebration gave us.

It’s legal already. Shoving your bad behavior in the face of a tolerant community isn’t just breathtakingly foolish, but also totally uncool.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com