Pot holiday goes mainstream in Colorado: Thousands attend 2-day festival at Denver Civic Center Park

DENVER - The 4/20 stoner holiday is going mainstream in Colorado. But the ban on public consumption was strictly enforced.

At 8:30 p.m., Denver Police tweeted that 130 citations were issued over the two-day event. Twenty of the citations were issued to out-of-state residents. Police said 22 people went to jail. Only five citations were issued at last year's event when recreational marijuana consumption was illegal.

In 2013, only five citations were issued for marijuana-related charges. Police say this year's increase may be due in part to this being a two-day event, compared to last year's one-day event, which was cut short because of a shooting.

"Do you think the fact marijuana is now legal in Colorado, gave people perhaps the license to smoke who would not have in years past?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart. 

"I don't know that.  I can't predict what was on their minds, why people smoke," said Denver police spokesperson Sonny Jackson. 

At 8 p.m. Denver Health Medical Center said Denver Paramedics responded to 30 requests for medical assistance. Eighteen individuals were transported to area hospitals and four were taken to detox.

Paramedics reported that most calls were for people who had used too much marijuana. Some had also consumed alcohol and many had been in the sun and not had enough water.

Denver Health reported that one individual sought treatment from over consumption of marijuana edibles.

7NEWS talked to dozens of people from out-of-state Sunday. Rosemary Jones and her granddaughter were visiting from St. Louis.

"It was my granddaughter’s 16th birthday. I wanted to go on a cruise, but she wanted to go to Colorado," Jones said. "It kind of reminds me of Woodstock but more subdued and legal."

Pierre Lloyd is from Oklahoma City but came to Denver specifically for the 4/20 rally.

"This is actually my first time, I heard a lot about it...I came down here just to chill with my people," Llyod said. "[It] exceeded my expectations, there’s a lot of people."

April 20 has traditionally been a day for marijuana activists to defiantly light up to protest their drug of choice being outlawed. But Colorado has legalized pot.

Yet public consumption is prohibited by Amendment 64, the state ballot measure passed by Colorado voters in 2012 that legalized marijuana recreational use and possession by people 21 or older. 

There was increased security at this year's event designed to discourage public consumption.  7NEWS saw attendees getting frisked as they entered the venue. Security officers could also be seen roaming the grounds.

Organizer Miguel Lopez told 7NEWS this year is more of a celebration then past years but there is still progress to be made.

"We’re going to to do the best job to encourage people not to smoke because our permit requires it, although politically we don’t support it [the current law]," Lopez said. "We’re still here to talk about those issues, including public consumption."

Denver police tweeted, "DENVER 4/20: If you think you can consume marijuana legally at an event YOU ARE WRONG. Plz obey the law and have fun."

"Denver 4/20 EVENT: Sunday 7 citations for public consumption of marijuana (3 to out of state visitors) as of 1:45 pm," police tweeted.

They followed up with a shot of officers inside the command center.

The entire festival was fenced in. There are four entrances and attendants were patted down and searched by security guards.

There were big signs that organizers put up by the entrances with all the rules and regulations.

This year the festival iwas run by a professional event company. It's short on pro-legalization speeches and instead crowded with vendor booths. Attendees must buy tickets to use at all the vendor booths, similar to festivals like The Taste of Colorado.

A separate marijuana industry event called the Cannabis Cup, north of downtown, also drew thousands.
 

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