The annual global celebration of marijuana drew tens of thousands of people this weekend to festivals in Denver, the capital of the first U.S. state to make the drug available for recreational use to anyone 21 and older.
The annual celebration has fallen on April 20, or 4/20, because a group of rebellious California teenagers in the 1970s supposedly decided to meet up at 4:20 p.m. each day after school to smoke marijuana. The legend spread, and the date and time become synonymous with the push to celebrate the mood-altering green plant.
Although marijuana now can be bought as easily as alcohol in Colorado, public consumption of marijuana products remains illegal. Denver officials were unwilling to waive that prohibition this weekend.
A Denver police spokesman said 22 people were cited downtown Saturday on suspicion of public consumption of marijuana, and 10 more were cited for other offenses. One man was booked into custody on suspicion of selling marijuana without a license. By midafternoon Sunday, seven citations for public consumption had been issued, police said.
Among the weekend’s marquee events were a music festival, dubbed “The Official 420 Rally,” across the lawn in front of the statehouse, and a convention known as the Cannabis Cup inside an events space.
Despite the local law enforcement concerns, marijuana supporters gathered in Denver focused attention on the larger battles ahead. Activists are looking to ensure that marijuana retail stores open as planned in July in Washington state and that ballot measures seeking to legalize the drug in Oregon and Alaska succeed later this year.
“Unlike past years, this year’s event will feel less like doing something wrong while your parents look the other way, and more like a celebration of how grassroots organizing can effect change,” 420 Rally organizers said in a statement ahead of the event.