Denver reminds 420 Festival attendees that public pot smoking is illegal

DENVER — It’s April 20, but the city of Denver reminded those planning to attend Wednesday’s Mile High 420 Festival at Civic Center Park that smoking pot is strictly prohibited.

After urging partygoers to challenge the “stigma surrounding marijuana use,” the city and county of Denver backtracked by reminding those attending the annual celebration that it remains illegal to smoke or otherwise ingest weed in public in Colorado.

The term “420” is acknowledged internationally as slang for marijuana use, per 

“We want to acknowledge that our previous 4/20 post contained messages that did not accurately portray Denver’s stance on cannabis consumption and usage,” said the Tuesday post. “While we support Denverites who safely and legally participate in 4/20 celebrations, it is vital to note the state and city rules for marijuana consumption.”

The original post, which has been removed but was shown in a screenshot by The Denver Post, said: “Fight the stigma surrounding marijuana use and celebrate the booming cannabis industry here in Colorado!”

The annual event resumed Wednesday after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

Colorado became the first state to offer legal recreational cannabis in 2014, but it can “only be consumed in a private residence or in a licensed marijuana hospitality business,” the city said.

“It is illegal to consume marijuana in a place that is observable by the public or to which the public has access without restriction,” said the post.

Organizers of the Mile High 420 Festival offered their own warning about Colorado’s marijuana laws.

“Public consumption of marijuana is prohibited under Colorado State law,” said the website. “It is also illegal to possess more than one ounce of marijuana or its equivalent in marijuana products under Colorado State law. Anyone caught distributing marijuana or using any illegal substances at the event will be turned over to local authorities.”

Whether festival-goers obey the law is another question. The event, billed as the world’s largest free-of-charge 4/20 celebration, typically features some police citations for those indulging in their drug of choice during the event, which runs from noon to 8 p.m.

This year’s festival, which is expected to draw as many as 50,000, includes entertainment from Lil Jon, Rachel Bailey, Talib Kweli and Big Boi.

Penalties for those caught indulging range from fines to jail time. Only those 21 or older are permitted to use recreational marijuana, while medical marijuana is available to those with a registry card.

The Denver Police Department, which will have officers monitoring the festivities, warned those “planning to partake” to arrange for a safe ride home.

“We suggest a taxi, ride-share, public transit or designated driver,” said the department on Twitter. “WE will get you to some of the #Denver’s ‘finest accommodations,’ but it may cost thousands of dollars in fines.”

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