People gather to celebrate during the 4/20 marijuana event at Civic Center Park on April 20, 2017 in Denver. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

There’s a battle brewing for control of Denver 4/20 rally

A Colorado cannabis entrepreneur is making a play for control of the Denver 4/20 rally after its controversial aftermath this past April.

Pepe Breton, co-founder of dispensary chain Euflora, regrets that his company was a title sponsor of the 2017 rally, he said Wednesday.

But Breton isn’t just dropping support for the annual rally at Civic Center Park celebrating marijuana — his company is launching a long-shot bid to wrest the permit for the event from longtime organizer Miguel Lopez. The future of the rally has been in question with Lopez facing a three-year ban from the city to host the event.

Representatives of Euflora will camp out in front of the Denver’s Wellington Webb building 24-7 for the next week to be first in line on Nov. 1 when the city opens the 2018 permitting process for event facilities and parks, Breton has announced.

The 2017 rally was “categorially mismanaged” and suffered from a severe lack of funding, Euflora marketing director Bobby Reginelli said at a hastily arranged news conference Wednesday afternoon outside the Webb building downtown.

“We have the time, talent and treasure to professionalize the 4/20 rally,” he said. “Our vision is to grow the rally into a celebration of (marijuana) legalization that people ages 21 to 100 years old can enjoy and relate to.”

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

But Breton and Euflora aren’t just camping out for the 4/20 permit — Breton is also suing event producers Civic Center Park Productions, LLC for $23,126 in unpaid cash loans allegedly made to keep the event afloat. Further complicating matters, the promissory note for the loan is secured by CCPP’s contractual agreement with Lopez, who has priority status from the city to apply for the annual permit.

“We’re making a point that this is not how you do business and this is not how you treat partners,” Breton told The Cannabist after the news conference.

Lopez, who attended the Wednesday press conference, told The Cannabist that he’s optimistic he will win his appeal and that the ban will be lifted. Should the ban be upheld, or should he lose his “priority event” status, however, he vowed to tie up the permit in litigation.

Among the allegations levied Wednesday, Breton said he saved the event by scrambling to produce $12,000 of the cash loan to to pay scheduled performer 2 Chainz the day of the event.

“Four-twenty had come and gone and everybody was waiting for 2 Chainz,” Reginelli explained. “He wasn’t going to preform until he got paid.”

For all the allegations, posturing and legal maneuvers, the fate of the permit required to host next year’s 4/20 rally is currently outside of both Breton’s and Lopez’s control.

Denver has put a hold on permits issued for April 20, 2018 pending a ruling by an administrative officer on Lopez’s appeal of a three-year ban imposed by the city last May, city officials told The Cannabist.

The city cited “substantial violations of city requirements,” including noise complaints, untimely trash removal, limited security staff, unlicensed food vendors and street closures. In addition to the ban, the city levied $11,965 in fines and $190 in damages, and revoked Lopez’s “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.

Lopez appealed the penalties, and during a two-day hearing in mid-September, his attorney Robert J. Corry Jr. argued that his client met the terms of his permit agreement and that the city’s three-year ban was “overreach.”

Hearing officer David Ramirez is expected to issue a ruling by Nov. 20, city officials have said.

If Ramirez upholds the ban prior to Nov. 1, another party could apply for an event permit for April 20 in Civic Center Park — marijuana-related or otherwise — when the 2018 permit process begins, city officials said. If the ban is upheld on a date after Nov. 1, the city will then announce a special date to apply for a permitted event on April 20, 2018.

Lopez left the door open for working with Breton on next year’s 4/20 rally and making peace on a beef that threatens an event for which he cares deeply.

“Peace comes by mutual respect,” he said. “(Breton) needs to respect the rally and respect the grassroots that come together on 4/20 for a larger purpose — this isn’t a party, it’s a human rights campaign with a marijuana platform.”