Before students flock to Norlin Quad, Jessica Corry gave a speech hoping for a more NORML life.
Corry, who delivered the keynote address for the National Marijuana Forum, spoke at the first of dozens of events being organized by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from April 18 to 19, on the eve of one of the largest and perhaps most controversial gatherings at CU: 4/20.
“For too long the government has been telling parents that they don’t know how to raise their children,” Corry said. “The time has come to stop this failed drug war, and treat drug addiction and drug use as a social or health issue and not as a criminal problem,”
Mike West, a 22-year-old senior environmental studies major, serves on the NORML board of directors.
“We’ve taken this and made it a lot larger than just an act of civil disobedience. This is something that needs to be done,” West said.
The mythology behind 4/20 is constructed by word of mouth; accounts vary as to the origins of the event, ranging from the police code used to identify the misdemeanor charge to a celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday.
The day has been dubbed International Cannabis Day, according to NORML.
The administration at CU, however, is clear on its view about the event.
In an e-mail from Interim Chancellor Philip DiStefano, he urged “not to participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of your university and degree.”
This was followed by an e-mail sent by Frank Bruno, vice chancellor for Administration, which discloses the possibility of violators being issued summons, while ensuring CU’s commitment “to the health, safety and academic success of our students,” on 4/20.
According to West, the first organized event held at CU was in 1998, when people actually began handing out fliers.
“It is something that unfortunately has to be done to make a statement,” West added.
CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard also weighed in on the event.
“The statement they are making is fulfilling a stereotype about our students,” Hilliard said. “That’s why we say don’t do it.”
West cited the similarities between the 60s Civil Rights Movement and 4/20.
“In the 60s, the Civil Rights Movement, there was a lot of people being sent to jail for what they believed in; as it turns out, a lot of people where right,” West said.
Hilliard noted the largest crowd that ever gathered at Norlin was a demonstration against the Vietnam War.
“Stopping a war in Southeast Asia seems to me to be a legitimate reason for a rally,” Hilliard said.
Alex Douglas, a 21-year-old junior sociology major and director of the NORML chapter at CU, stresses the need to educate the public.
“We are bringing this forum to CU and hosting this diverse forum because not only do we want to educate, we just want to open up this public discourse,” Douglas said.
West, a medicinal marijuana patient, said he was “very excited” about the gathering.
Other students do not share the enthusiasm.
“It’s kind of a pain in the butt,” said freshman Luke Martin, 19, a MCD biology major. “I’m not really that excited.”
Martin is a member of the Air Force ROTC, who in an e-mail sent to all of its members on April 16, which stated, “Monday is 4/20. Cadets are REQUIRED to stay clear of Norlin Quad and Farrand Field. These are often the scenes of drug use and protests on 4/20. Find alternate routes and stay safe.”
The e-mail, along with the two sent by the administration, address the police presence the day of the event.
CUPD Cmdr. Tim McGraw assures that while officers will be present, they will not interfere with the crowd, unless safety becomes an obvious issue.
“We will do what we can do, trying to make sure things are safe for people,” McGraw said. “[The] safety of our community is always our primary concern.”
Sgt. Pat Witon, an officer for the Boulder Police Department, explained they don’t have any special plans unless there is a blatant violation.
“It’s just another day at work,” Witon said.
Area business are taking advantage of the event, holding ‘4/20 sales’ in light of the buzz being generated and because of the boom in the industry, these businesses can now use a cannabis payment processing provider to make sure their transactions are successful.
Mike Mathis, owner of the store The Root, has been in Boulder for 11 years, a few years prior to the first major gathering.
“We have been doing it for a while,” Mathis said. “Our promotion is we give away free pipes, we give out vouchers on campus. We don’t’ make a lot of money because of the discount, but it gets people in the store.”
Hash Bash, is an annual event taking place at the University of Michigan campus at Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a similar event. Organized by the city and by the college, the event also host speakers in addition to a large rally.
Opinion on Boulder’s event still remains split.
“I think they do it because it is something to do,” Martin said. “It makes them rebellious.”
Others feel they need to do it to make a statement.
“While it may be a minor offense to smoke marijuana in public,” Corry said, “we need to be asking about the more serious offense, and that’s a drug war that sends thousands, tens of thousands even, into our criminal justice system every year and cost tax payers billions of dollars. That’s the real criminal offense here.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Esteban L. Hernandez at email@example.com