Pot holiday goes mainstream in Colorado

Partygoers listen to live music and smoke pot on the second of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver, Sunday April 20, 2014. The annual event is the first 420 marijuana celebration since retail marijuana stores began selling in January 2014. Brennan Linsley, AP

DENVER - Once the province of activists and stoners, the traditional pot holiday of April 20 has gone mainstream in the first U.S. 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.

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Partygoers listen to live music on the second of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver, Sunday April 20, 2014.
Brennan Linsley, AP
Police didn't swoop in for mass arrests at 4:20 p.m. 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 only reported 63 citations or arrests on Sunday, 47 for marijuana consumption. They said they had issued 21 citations on Saturday. All were for public consumption of marijuana. One person was arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempting to distribute the drug.

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."

Attendee Rodrigo Ramirez told CBS Denver he doesn't celebrate Easter, but he was happy to spend Sunday playing hacky sack with his friends at Civic Center Park and smoking weed.

"I'm loving the music, you know. They had some Bob Marley on, good for hacking," Ramirez said. "Everybody's hacking over here. Everybody's getting into their little groups to smoke, so I think that's great."

It was Ramirez's third time at the festival.

"Very diverse, you know. I think a lot of people are coming because it's the first time it's legal," he said.

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 didn't 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's 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 hip-hop music blasting from the sound stage and enjoying the marijuana-scented air.

"It's a lot mellower this year," said Cody Andrews, 29. "It's more of a venue now. More vendor-y."

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 predicted, "and we'll be doing this in every state."


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