A man listens to rapper Too Short perform on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at Civic Center Park in Denver during the 4/20 Rally weekend event. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

The weekend of weed: Denver 4/20 rally returns to Civic Center

From psychedelic shirts and beanies to hemp-infused energy drinks, Denver’s Civic Center park on Saturday was filled to the brim with cannabis-themed vendors and cannabis-loving crowds for the annual 4/20 rally.

Some, like New York-based clothing company Not Fade Away, traveled to Colorado for the downtown event — billed as the world’s largest marijuana rally. Others, like Canna Energy, are based here in Denver.

The event, which began Saturday and runs through Sunday night, features a full lineup of music, including a concert by rapper Rick Ross at 4:20 p.m. Sunday. Gates are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the free public event, with a ticketed after-party running 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the McNichols building.

“Our goal is to create a positive environment for users to share stories, learn about the industry and create informed opinions on the remaining issues facing the industry,” rally founder Miguel Lopez said in a statement.

On Saturday, many people were there doing just that. Lauren Croucher, a founding partner at Modolo Consulting, was conducting research for the new firm, focused on the cannabis industry. “You don’t often get to see the birth of an industry right in your backyard,” she said. “This is a great chance to meet new folks and see what’s new in the industry.”

Others were there to partake in the festivities. “(We’re here) to get stoned, to have fun,” said John Ponischil, a former judge in Amsterdam’s Cannabis Cup who attended the rally with his wife, Tamara.

The actual 4/20 holiday isn’t until Monday, but a city moratorium on new three-day events kept the rally’s organizers from expanding beyond the weekend. City officials said Lopez did not file paperwork or pay for a permit for Monday. Instead, Lopez plans to hold a 4/20 event at Lincoln Park. He said he knows of no official 4/20 event planned for Civic Center park.

Denver became Colorado’s epicenter for 4/20 events after the University of Colorado began shutting down its Boulder campus on that day in 2012.

This is the second year the Denver rally has been highly structured, with monitored entrances, fences around the park and security guards. At the 2013 rally, two people were shot and another person grazed by a bullet.

Since then, event organizers have worked hard to change the rally’s image.

“I feel safe here this year, with all the security and checks at the door,” attendee Malcolm Hilaire said. “The atmosphere is a lot different (from past years). It’s more organized, more fun, and there’s a lot more to do. It’s more regulated, and that’s definitely important at a festival like this.”

In addition to security guards, police were also present at the rally Saturday, issuing citations for public consumption of marijuana. While recreational use was legalized in Colorado with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, it remains illegal to consume it in public. At last year’s 4/20 rally, police issued dozens of citations. This year, officers issued approximately 60 citations.

Anna Gauldin: 303-954-1666, agauldin@denverpost.com

This story was first published on DenverPost.com