Tue, Apr 22, 2014 - Page 7 News List

US pot holiday tries to go mainstream

‘MELLOWER’:This year, Washington’s traditional pot holiday had a city permit and featured booths selling marijuana-themed products such as hemp lollipops

AP, DENVER, Colorado

The traditional pot holiday of April 20 has gone mainstream in the first US state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Tens of thousands gathered for a weekend of Colorado cannabis-themed festivals and entertainment, from a marijuana industry expo called the Cannabis Cup, to 4/20-themed concerts — acts include Snoop Dogg — to a massive festival in the shadow of the state capitol.

Police did not swoop in for mass arrests at 4:20pm on Sunday, the moment for the traditional smoke-out marking the holiday.

Although it is still against the law to publicly smoke marijuana in Colorado, police reported only 130 citations or arrests over the course of the two-day event, 92 for marijuana consumption.

In Washington, thousands celebrated in the only other state to legalize marijuana.

The pot holiday started as a defiant gathering of marijuana activists, but this year the event had an official city permit, was organized by an events management company and featured booths selling food, hemp lollipops and glass pipes.

Gavin Beldt, one of the organizers, said in a statement that the event is now a “celebration of legal status for its use in Colorado and our launch of an exciting new experience for those attending.”

Elsewhere, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said his officers would be cracking down on illegal parking, camping, drug sales, underage drinking and open alcohol containers at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill.

Officials did not want the unofficial pot holiday to disrupt Easter Sunday activities.

In Canada, the pot-smoking movement took on marijuana prohibition with rallies across the country.

Police estimated that more than 2,000 people gathered on the lawn on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Hundreds turned out at rallies in Vancouver and Toronto.

Pot activist Jodie Emery said there has been a huge spike in interest as the experiment plays out in Colorado and Washington state.

“I can tell you from my spot as being a pot activist for 10 years in Vancouver, the last year has been insane — even in Canada — with respect to licensed providers and all these companies trying to be the next big thing,” Emery said in a telephone interview.

On Saturday, in Denver, thousands lingered on the broad lawns near the capitol, listening to music blasting from the sound stage and enjoying the marijuana-scented air.

“It’s a lot mellower this year,” Cody Andrews, 29, said.

Last year’s event was marred by an unsolved shooting that wounded three. This year, a fence ringed the park. Security guards in protective gear roamed the grounds, and all entrants were being checked for weapons.

The whole scene was wonderfully surreal for Bud Long, 49, from Michigan, who recalled taking part in his first 4/20 protest in 1984.

“Nationwide, it’ll be decriminalized,” he said. “And we’ll be doing this in every state.”

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