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4/20 Rally Organizer Claims 'Witch Hunt'

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - On April 20 every year, Denver's Civic Center Park goes up in smoke. The crowd counts down the seconds to 4:20 p.m. and then lights up their marijuana cigarettes and more.

420 rally (2)
(credit: CBS)

Miguel Lopez has been the organizer and permit holder for the event for many years. He is appealing a three-year ban by the city after it cited problems at this year's event.

(credit: CBS)

CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger has been covering the event since well before the legalization of pot. He asked Lopez outside a hearing on the matter on Tuesday "Why do you feel this ban is unfair?"

"It's a witch hunt for the mayor to poise himself for re-election," Lopez replied, referring to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Miguel Lopez
CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Miguel Lopez. (credit: CBS)

"Do you feel they are trying to get rid of the festival?" Sallinger asked.

"They are trying to get rid of me," he answered.

The city pointed to trash problems, both during and after the festival. The scene the day afterwards was a mess.

(credit: CBS)

But organizers said trash bags may have been slit open by homeless people and that they met their deadline anyway.

"We did our event April 20. We had until midnight the next day to clean that park up. We paid for that and the city agreed with that," said Robert Corry, the attorney representing Lopez.

During Tuesday's hearing, representatives from Denver Parks and Recreation showed a photo of barricades knocked down, allowing participants to enter without proper screening.

In reference to that, Corry told CBS4 "There were no security issues."

"Fences get knocked over and we put them back up," he said.

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Corry said the 4/20 rally is the only one in which participants have to be hand wanded by security. That measure was put in place after a non-fatal shooting just outside the event boundary a few years ago. Several knives were found this year by security.

Hearing officer David Ramirez is expected to rule on whether Lopez can keep his priority for the 4/20 permit. The event organizer insists the marijuana event won't be ending.

"Will the festival go on without you?" CBS4 asked.

"One way or another," he replied.

420 rally (1)
(credit: CBS)

A decision is expected in 30 days. It can be appealed to Denver District court.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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