This picture was taken yesterday, 4/19, when I went down to the free event at Civic Center Park in Denver.
What started as a protest has become yet another opportunity for people to sell stuff. Not that that is all bad, necessarily.
I had never gone to the thing at Civic Center before. Last year, I was on the street in front of Cervantes listening to Salmon play. Before that, I had like an actual career-type job where I had to work most 4/20’s, and where I had to pretend I didn’t smoke weed and pretend I didn’t condone smoking weed. Glad those days are over! (And, before that, 4/20 was not an organized, generally-known-about thing, and my 4/20’s were spent smoking bowl after bowl after bowl at some friend or other’s very private 4/20 party.)
But legalization means regulation.
Here is what greeted us upon entry:
I arrived at about 10:53 am and was the fourth or fifth person in line at the entrance. The gates opened at 11, or they were supposed to open at 11. We were not actually allowed in until closer to 11:30.
We were searched at the gate. You were not supposed to bring in any food or drink, any glass, any weapons (obviously), or basically anything else that could be deemed dangerous or destructive. The “no food or drink” thing I didn’t really get. To me this seemed like the usual ploy to get you to buy all food and drink inside the venue.
I did bring in my vape pen, and once inside, it was really not hard at all to “use marijuana in public.” I heard, though, that on Saturday, police issued 60 tickets for public consumption, which doesn’t seem like very many to me, although it is too many. 60 too many, when you consider that we should just be allowed to consume in “public.”
And, witness the very “public” beer garden:
But, I had decided to go early because I was not particularly interested in the music. It was all Hip Hop. (In other words, to go ahead and sound blindingly white, Rap.) I don’t dislike Hip Hop, I’m just very picky about it. And it’s not really my scene. Ya know? I’m a hippie.
Speaking of which, the crowd was an interesting mix. Nothing brings together Latinos, African-Americans, and hippies like weed. And, yes, I am implying “white” with the word “hippie.” I apologize if this offends anyone, but when you hear the word “hippie,” what do you think of?
But, there were also plenty of preppy-looking college-aged kids as well as some people who looked like tourists who came in to check out the freak show. I can just imagine a middle-aged couple from the Midwest, taking a Sunday stroll down Colfax and being like, “What’s going on over there, honey? Let’s go see!”
My purpose in going this year was basically to wander around and see if I could find anything interesting.
Most of the preppy-looking college kids I saw were centered around this huge, not even a booth, it was more of like a big, scaffold-ed tent for Mass Roots, a cannabis infused social media site.
This was the most prominent “booth,” if you will, in the entire complex.
But, tucked away in a corner, very unobtrusively, were, in my opinion, the two most interesting booths in the complex. The booths for Occupy Denver and for DAM Collective (Direct Autonomous Media.)
Yes, Occupy Denver is still around, still feeding the homeless and advocating for economic and social justice. I gave them $5 and took one of their groovy buttons with a pot leaf on it. Then, there was DAM Collective, which I had not heard of before, but I was intrigued. They basically collect photos, videos, audio, and writing from whoever has witnessed something or has a story to tell. Same basic idea as Cop Watch, more or less. Their flyer states that they are “dedicated to exposing un-censored truth about police brutality, social change, and earth’s defense.” They are on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I fully intend to check this all out shortly.
But, see, this is the sort of thing I am way more interested in than people selling stuff, which is what the rest of the event was.
There were t-shirt booths, paraphernalia booths, art booths, food booths, booths for all kinds of marijuana-related services, including one for a weed oriented online radio station and one for a dispensary discount club.
I really wanted to buy a t-shirt, but nothing was jumping out at me. The one thing I did buy is this cool little multi-tool for cleaning, poking, and tamping down bowls. It’s called a Tazz. But, it’s made of copper and has these pretty beads on the top part. It came in handy a couple of times today already.
And, of course, in front of the main stage and on the steps in front of the Greek stage, there were groups of people smoking up, un-hassled and un-ticketed by the cops. Police presence was light while I was there. When I first arrived, there was a group of about five cops conferring on the field in front of the main stage. Then, they dispersed, and I did not see them again.
When I was leaving, around 2 pm, the event security were busying themselves with walking the fence line to make sure no one jumped the fence to get in.
But, I’m guessing that probably most of the tickets for public consumption were given on the other side of the fence, outside the event. Inside, perhaps on the periphery you would’ve been vulnerable, but, for the most part, people were left alone and not an eyelash was batted. As it should be.
There was not much of a crowd when I was there. It seemed to be picking up a bit just as I was leaving. If I’m not into the music, I really don’t mind avoiding the crowd.
But, this year, for the first time ever, you could actually buy “VIP” tickets to this thing. I think they were $25, and they got you into after-parties, and in here:
I’m not sure what went on inside the McNichols building because I didn’t buy the VIP tickets, but there you have it. Honestly, I thought it was pretty absurd that they were selling any kind of tickets to this thing at all.
One of the main lessons I think we are learning here in Colorado is that not only does legalization mean regulation, but it also means commercialization, which again, I don’t think is necessarily all bad or all good. It’s just boring. At its best, it can help promote a worthy and meaningful cause. At its worst, it becomes exploitative. And I guess that is what I felt on a gut level about the whole event. It seemed very exploitative and very hollow. It was just a bunch of people selling shit and a bunch of people getting high.
So, today, on 4/20, at 4:20, I have heard tell that there will be a much less official gathering at Civic Center, for which there is no permit, and for which there will be no stages and no vendors, but just people smoking weed in public and in protest of Federal prohibition. I hope that it’s also in protest of the excessive regulation and the exploitative commercialism that has developed around our legal weed over the past couple of years.
I hope that today, after all the weekend hype, we can smoke with more of a purpose. I hope we can smoke to the true meaning of 4/20 (which I’m pretty much just making up right now): freedom, justice, acceptance, love, and resistance against oppression.
Peace, stoners! And may the spirit of 4/20 be with you throughout the year!