For more than a decade, Denver city officials have winced as they’ve watched puffs of marijuana smoke rise above Civic Center park during 4/20 gatherings at the symbolically important time of 4:20 p.m.
After the legalization of recreational marijuana took effect in Colorado four years ago, those grimaces spread — finding a quiet echo among many on the business side who feared that such open flouting of the continuing ban on public consumption could harm the wider public acceptance of the fledgling industry.
This year, the industry has taken control of the event for the first time, after Euflora, a growing chain of dispensaries that started on the 16th Street Mall, won the right to step in for longtime permit-holder Miguel Lopez, a sometimes-combative pro-marijuana activist. Last year, Lopez earned city officials’ public scorn — as well as a three-year permit ban — after the city woke on April 21 to a disheveled, trash-strewn mess in the park.
For the free event that’s now called the Mile High 420 Festival, Euflora officials promise a more professionally run event. But don’t expect a Disney-fied version, as an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 spectators flock to Civic Center: The event, after all, remains a celebration of marijuana culture.
“We want this to look great for the city of Denver and state of Colorado, and we know the world is watching,” said Bobby Reginelli, Euflora’s marketing director. “It’s very hard to throw an event with contradictory messaging. … On the one hand, we’re celebrating cannabis, but our state’s laws haven’t caught up to the fact that you can’t publicly consume cannabis.”
In other words: Expect some smoke, despite signs reminding attendees of laws against public consumption.