BOULDER – Exactly what it means or why it began, no one knows. But for lots of the thousands who came to smoke pot at the CU campus on Friday afternoon, the history and meaning of “420” were irrelevant.
“Sometimes things just happen,” said Boone Kizer, 20, a CU junior who has been a regular at every demonstration since he was a freshman. “Why does there always have to be a purpose?”
Students and community members from across Colorado gathered at the flagship CU campus to light up and enjoy a sunny day with friends – like they do every year on April 20 and 4:20 p.m.
Officials estimated about 3,500 smokers on the university’s spacious main quad. It was moved from its traditional location at Ferrand Field.
And to the pleasant surprise of the gaggle of potheads, police this time around weren’t as aggressive in their crackdown efforts.
Last year, police snapped photos of about 200 partiers, posted them online and asked for community help in identifying the scofflaws.
About half were identified, and if they were CU students, referred to the university’s judicial affairs department.
This year, police focused more on the unruly and only handed out about a half dozen tickets, said Bronson Hilliard, CU spokesman.
Hilliard, too, doesn’t know why thousands of smokers choose the CU campus.
“I can’t understand what brings it to our campus; maybe it’s our leftover reputation from the 60s,” he said. “It’s not a consciousness-raising activity. It’s just a big party.”
The celebration is the first since the November defeat of Amendment 44, which aimed to legalize adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
But for Friday’s “demonstrators,” the politics of pot legalization seemed to be the last thing on their minds.
Friends and strangers greeted each other with a hearty “Happy Holidays” as the smell of marijuana hung thick in the air.
And although some technically called the event a “protest,” people could be forgiven for not understanding the supposed political undertones of the get-together.
A grown man in a giant yellow banana costume wandered around giving high fives; a man dressed as Jafar from Aladdin went down the Slip-n-Slide with reckless abandon and with little concern about the condition of his fez.
And people frolicked shirtless and high, giggling and talking gibberish.
“People love holidays, especially the ones that they invent,” Freddie Ray Baladez, a Fort Collins resident, said with a smile on his bearded face.
“We all love a reason to get together and have a good time.”
Hilliard said the university decided it wasn’t worth it to dedicate its law enforcement resources to handing out a plethora of pot possession tickets, which run about $100, the same as a speeding ticket.
“What we did last year apparently wasn’t a deterrent to this year,” he said. “We’re going to revisit this and see new ways of keeping this event from campus.”
Managing editor Vimal Patel contributed to this report.
Staff writer Kevin Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.