Thousands gather for last year's 4/20 Rally at the Civic Center in Denver. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

More political pot rallies seek approval for Denver 4/20

When Denver denied the 4/20 Rally festival’s request to expand to a third day this year, sought because the annual pot holiday falls on a Monday, it looked like disorganization would rule Civic Center during the traditional afternoon pot smoke-out.

But no longer. Well, maybe.

Two other organizers have stepped into the void, applying for public assembly permits for simpler April 20 political rallies that likely would be exempt from a new event moratorium at the park. Those await city approval.

And a third potential stripped-down pro-marijuana political rally — planned by the huge 4/20 fest’s main organizer — is shaping up that afternoon across Broadway, on state Capitol grounds.

Along with the potential cluster of competing rallies on state and city property, planning for April 20 comes with intra-movement politics, including some jockeying for position.

The 4/20 fest’s Miguel Lopez is close with Anthony Marquez II, who applied Jan. 22 for one of the Civic Center assembly permits. That was just one day after the first application was submitted by marijuana activist Robert Chase.

Chase, who rails against state legislators’ proposals for further marijuana regulation, says he wants to encourage attendees to take direct political action.

He says he wants “to direct the attention of the people present in the park to the authors of prohibition who now are making bad policy,” exhorting them to speak up. He sees Coloradans’ legal access to marijuana as far from safeguarded.

But Lopez and Marquez say Chase’s approach is caustic and could drive people away from his megaphone.

“He’s great for what he does,” Marquez said about Chase, “but I feel — and I know from my experience working in the community — that I can connect with a lot more people here.”

Marquez’s and Lopez’s events are more likely to mix music and other entertainment with a broader political message about the need to legalize marijuana elsewhere, they say. They say they’re talking about coordinating.

It’s possible the city could approve both Civic Center events, dividing up the park.

City officials planned to meet Thursday to begin considering the two permit requests, said Katy Strascina, executive director of the Denver Office of Special Events.

“We’re not in a position to deny First Amendment (assemblies),” Strascina said. But officials may consider whether Civic Center can accommodate both events.

Chase’s application says he expects 5,000 attendees, while Marquez, who also proposes a stage for bands and food and non-alcoholic beverage sales, expects 25,000.

Lopez’s April 20 rally would take place in the park between Broadway and Lincoln Street. He says he already has cleared most hurdles to secure a Capitol permit, because the weekend 4/20 fest also uses the same area, in addition to Civic Center.

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Last month, Lopez bristled at the city’s decision to deny his request to add Monday as a third day of the 4/20 festival, which brings at least tens of thousands to Civic Center each day for big-name music acts and advocacy.

He declined an option to keep the festival at two days but shift it to Sunday/Monday.

Now Lopez says the potential hodgepodge of smaller rallies on April 20, with a more overtly political focus, “works out perfectly for us.”

“They forced us to think of something even better,” he said about city officials.

Police have told The Denver Post that they will arrange to have enough officers on hand April 20 to keep watch on any gatherings. They typically focus more on safety than on issuing citations for public pot-smoking, banned by ordinance.

Jon Murray: 303-954-1405 or

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