Home Culture Organizers of Denver’s 4/20 Rally Fined, Banned from Holding Event for 3...

Organizers of Denver’s 4/20 Rally Fined, Banned from Holding Event for 3 Years

© Stock Pot Images / Blake Billings

The annual 4/20 rally in Denver has become quite an event, especially over the last few years, with recreational marijuana sales being legal in the state. Some even consider Denver the 4/20 capital of the United States; but all that may be coming to an end after circumstances at this year’s rally seemingly got out of hand with long lines, toppled fences and mounds of trash strewn all over Denver’s Civic Center Park.

Things were so bad that they prompted the editorial board at The Denver Post to speak out and urge organizers and revelers to grow up and try not to embody every negative stoner stereotype imaginable. “The list of regrettable and gross misdeeds includes leaving Civic Center – Denver’s front lawn – something of a trash heap for workers, residents and visitors to consider as thanks for our awfully open-minded legal-cannabis system,” they wrote.

Now Denver Parks and Recreation officials have announced their verdict on what went down on 4/20: they have slapped rally organizers with more than $12,000 in fines and have banned the event from taking place in the city or county for the next 3 years.

“After a thorough review of the event, substantial violations of city requirements were found,” said Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation. “We will continue to ensure that events in our parks are safe, compliant and of high quality, and we remain focused on protecting Denver’s parks and facilities which are valuable assets to our city and our residents.”

For their part, rally organizers claim that volunteers did their job and cleaned up all of the trash left behind, but that overnight the full trash bags left in the park for pickup were ripped open by someone, perhaps a homeless person or persons looking for food or cans. They say the city is using that as a pretext to ban an event that promotes a message they don’t like.

Organizers plan on appealing the city’s decision and say they will take the matter to court if necessary. If the ban stands, the “4/20 capital of the U.S.” may be without an official celebration on the holiest of all high holidays for the next few years.

No matter what the outcome, however, things like this reflect poorly on the cannabis community as a whole in the eyes of the public. Whether that is fair in this case is a matter for debate; but the perception is not one that can be ignored. Although some laws are changed, the stigma built up over the last 80+ years still remains in many ways. Many still look down on “stoners” and stories like this simply serve to echo what they already believe.

Mistakes happen and events won’t always go perfectly. But when it comes to public perception, we must remember that – as a community – we have very little room for error.


  1. As I am from the East Coast I was obviously not at this event, but I am siding with the organizers and think the Denver Post and the prohibitioners in Denver made a big deal as if you are Blind, Deaf, and Dumb like most(not all) politicians, you forget that ANY event held anywhere where thounsands of people gather is going to have SOME sort of aftermath no matter what the event. Where I live the streets are LITTERED with gross plastic shot bottles of the devils brew. If you go to a movie or concert, audiences leave stuff behind that falls or is discarded. There’s trash after a VFW parade, yet the Post prohibitionists and those in office CHOOSE to use that as a reason for complaint, they were looking for one I’m sure.
    I hope the organizers fight tooth and nail as that’s insanity. If an event is held and it’s fine in previous years, and the time they make it sound problematic is when the devil or Sessions/Trump are leading the Let’s Chain America Up Again front.
    To the organizers, I’d try and find any loophole and repackage the event, call it a Cannabis Awareness Festival make it sound good to the people who want everyone to suffer(prohibitionists) and make sure to use realistic examples in your battle. I would if Hempfest in Boston ever faced BS like that. Politicians and lawmakers find ways around freedom, and we can find ways around their life wreaking plans.

  2. One solution might be for media to stop reinforcing the “stoner culture” stereotypes whenever cannabis is the subject of a post or a scheduled event. If legalization is to be seen as a positive shift, images that depict users should more accurately represent the majority of us, not just the clowns.

    If the media depicted all alcohol consumers as college newbies downing shots or puking on a sidewalk, ordinary drinkers would take offense. Stop portraying cannabis consumption as immature and irresponsible and events like 420 Denver might not be such an embarrassment.

  3. I think it”s terrible, punishing a group of people for the actions of a few irresponsible people, probably hobos or maybe animals may have caused the large amounts of trash. Maybe they’ll hold it in other parts of Colorado or other states. Maybe they can hold a 4/20 in ’20 rally. 3 years, that’s a long time in stoner years.