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

Hearing officer considers Denver 4/20 organizer’s appeal regarding 3-year ban

Event organizer Miguel Lopez wants another chance to run the annual event

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that the hearing was continued to Wednesday.

Whether the man behind Denver’s recent 4/20 rally will get another go at the marijuana-centric event will soon rest in the hands of an administrative hearing officer.

Event organizer Miguel Lopez on Tuesday appealed the three-year ban imposed against him by the city, which alleged that the April 20, 2017, event he spearheaded in Denver’s Civic Center Park incurred violations relating to aspects such as security, trash and unlicensed food vendors. Lopez also lost his “Priority Event” status with the city, a qualification given to a permittee who has run the same event at the same park on the same date, weekend or holiday for two consecutive years or more.

Robert J. Corry Jr., Lopez’s attorney, argued that his client met the terms of his permit agreement and that the city’s three-year ban was “overreach.”

Corry also claimed Tuesday that city officials had changed their position that the event violated noise ordinances. City attorneys said Tuesday that noise was not one of the cited violations.

“The city is shifting the target here for us to respond to,” Corry said.

Corry argued that if the ban were to remain in place, Lopez’s loss of priority status could essentially equate to a lifetime ban, as another operator could step in and apply for a marijuana-focused event in subsequent Aprils and gain priority status.

According to the city of Denver, another party could apply for a permitted event on April 20 in Civic Center Park — marijuana-related or otherwise — when the 2018 permit process begins on Nov. 1. Such an move would be dependent upon the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing and whether its outcome triggers additional litigation.

At the hearing, which was expected to last all day but was continued to Wednesday, city parks employees testified about observations such as trash overflowing from bins, trash strewn across Civic Center Park the following morning, and festival attendees pushing over chain link fences to enter the event,

Renee Carmody, senior assistant city attorney for Denver, reiterated the 29 “substantial violations” lodged against Lopez and workers at the event. Those included two counts of trash violations, eight counts related to unlicensed food vendors, one count of failing to comply with a security plan, three counts of not complying with the public works street occupancy permit, and 15 other counts related to permittee workers.

“You only need five,” for a three-year ban against the event holder, Carmody said.

Hearing Officer David Ramirez is expected to issue a ruling within 30 days.