Pot may be legal to smoke at the annual 420 rally -- on April 20 -- in Denver's Civic Center Park

Denver council considers 1 day of public pot use

Denver - The Denver police chief says officers have written nearly one citation a day for public pot consumption since recreational marijuana use became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1.

Denver police have also investigated burglaries at seven pot businesses since the new law took effect.

The Denver city council, however, is now exploring the idea of allowing public pot consumption for just one day a year during the annual 4/20 marijuana smoke-out celebration -- on April 20 -- at Civic Center Park.

Safety and money are behind the move. Past events have proven Denver police are unable to safely enforce the law during the huge 4/20 rally with regard to illegal consumption in the park as a giant cloud of pot smoke rises above the crowd.

Changes this year would also include charging organizers for the event.

In the past, the 4/20 event has been considered a political assembly. The mass pot-smoking rally has long been a public protest against laws prohibiting marijuana use. The city waves event fees for political demonstrations.

This year, organizers will likely be required to pay the $2,600 fee for use of the park and a $1,500 refundable damage deposit. Those are fees incurred by organizers of events like the Taste of Colorado and PrideFest.

Councilman Chris Nevitt was first to propose the idea of allowing people to smoke legally in public in the park during the 4/20 rally this upcoming spring.

"I think that would be the way to go. Actually issue a permit for one day a year in Civic Center Park," Nevitt said during the council's Amendment 64 Committee hearing on Monday afternoon.

Nevitt says it would be similar to permitting open alcohol containers in the park during events like Taste of Colorado.

Councilman Charlie Brown said he doesn't like the precedent it would set.

"If we permit for one day, their holiday, what's next? St. Patty's day?" Brown asked.

Denver Police Chief Robert White said smoking in public is not legal under Amendment 64 and will not be tolerated.

"The intent is to not have it occur and to do public education letting individuals know that it's a violation (of state law)," White told the committee.

But another council member pointed out to the chief that enforcement of smoking in the park during past 4/20 events has been a very low priority.

During the 2013 4/20 rally, there was a shooting at the event. One man was shot in the leg. The suspect got away.

Last year, 4/20 organizers paid a grand total of $25 for the application for a political assembly.

City council legal staff said the appropriate designation for the event this year is a festival.

If the council were to allow smoking in the park during the rally this year, the sale and transfer of pot would still be illegal.

Organizers say the event would likely be two days this year, both Sat., April 19 and Sun., April 20.






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