Voters in both Western states approved ballot
initiatives in 2012 allowing personal possession and use of
marijuana by anyone aged 21 and or older for purposes of just
getting high, though public consumption of pot remains illegal.
In January the world's first state-licensed retail marijuana outlets
opened for business in Colorado, and stores in Washington are set to
follow suit later this year. Both states are among 20 that have
already removed criminal sanctions for medical use of marijuana.
The federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal
narcotic, but the Obama administration has given states new leeway
to experiment with legalized cannabis.
In Denver's Civic Center Park near the state capitol, revelers on
Sunday gathered to hear music and listened to speakers during a
weekend event that organizers billed as the "world's largest 4/20
The date of April 20, or 4/20, corresponds to the numerical code
widely recognized within the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all
Police officers standing by on the fringes of the Denver festival
issued 63 citations on Sunday, most for smoking pot in public — a
ticket that carries a fine of $150. About half as many were cited on
Saturday, police said.
At least eight individuals were taken to a detoxification facility
for treatment during the two days, police said.
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said officers have refrained
from wading into the crowd to arrest violators, but instead were
citing people who openly defied the public consumption ban.
"Those ticketed were blatantly in violation of state law and city
ordinances," Jackson said.
Organizers of the rally and city officials beefed up security at the
event after three people were wounded by gunfire at last year's
Separately, the Cannabis Cup, a trade show sponsored by High Times
magazine, drew sold-out crowds over the weekend at a Denver
The two-day event featured marijuana sampling and workshops, such as
how to open a pot shop, cultivation tips, and how to talk to
children about weed, according to the event's website.
Rachel O'Bryan, spokeswoman for Smart Colorado, an organization that
advocates for stricter enforcement of marijuana laws, said the
cannabis industry needs to do more to police its own.
"People are flouting the law by openly consuming," she said.
"We're concerned about the message that sends to our kids."
[to top of second column]
CELEBRATING WITH BONGS AT A BREWERY
In Seattle, several hundred people who paid $15 a head crowded the
cavernous interior of a former brewery where Rainier Beer was made
for decades to attend a 4/20 gathering organized by sponsors of the
city's annual Hempfest rally.
Reggae music played over loudspeakers and the air inside was
thick with the sweet, skunky odor of cannabis. But no police were
visible at the event, which organizers deliberately held on private
space leased from the brewery owners in an industrial section of the
city south of downtown.
The gathering featured a workshop on how to roll a joint with an
entire ounce (28 grams) of marijuana — the legal limit for personal
possession in the state — as well as vendors selling pipes and other
paraphernalia, and a blind-toke test in which participants tried to
distinguish between different strains of pot by sampling them.
Attendees ranged from middle-aged baby boomers to a younger crowd
from the so-called millennial generation.
A cheer from the crowd went up at precisely 4:20 p.m. local time,
as many attendees milling about outside lit joints and pipes
simultaneously, sending puffs of smoke into the air followed by
raucous fits of coughing.
One woman in the crowd accepted a joint handed her from a bearded
"You look just like Jesus," she exclaimed in an apparent reference
to the event coinciding with Easter Sunday. "How does it feel to be
Doug Medina, 54, said he traveled hundreds of miles with his wife
and daughter from Billings, Montana, to Seattle for the 4/20 weekend
"It feels a little more open than it did five or 10 years ago," he
said while smoking a joint outside the brewery.
(Additional reporting by Bryan Cohen in Seattle;
editing by Barbara
Goldberg, Leslie Adler and Eric Walsh)
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