Apr 192005
 
Authors: Katrina Tamminga

In recent years a tradition has developed for some Coloradans to celebrate April 20 each year by smoking marijuana. Students at the University of Colorado-Boulder began taking part in this celebration on campus in 1999.

Although the annual event is not school-sanctioned, hundreds of students gather on CU's Farrand Field to smoke marijuana each year.

There were very few participants the first year, said Lt. Tim McGraw of the CU Police Department. He said because the students were quiet and kept to themselves, officers monitored the event but gave out few violations and did little to intervene.

However, because of the dramatic increase in participants, the CU Police Department might be cracking down on the celebration.

"Last year there were over 1,000 people, not just students, participating, and this year we expect there to be even more," McGraw said.

Because of the growing size of the celebration, administrators at CU and law enforcement in Boulder are now looking at ways to prevent and better monitor CU's April 20 celebration.

"We will have an increased presence this year because of how large the activity has become," McGraw said.

Evan Ackerfeld, the assistant director for SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) Choice, said he thinks the university might be doing this to protect its image, which has recently been tarnished due to rising alcohol use among students.

SAFER Choice is a nonprofit organization advocating for equal punishments for marijuana and alcohol use at both CSU and CU, after five alcohol-related deaths occurred in the state of Colorado in the fall of 2004.

"We question whether these schools care more about their image or their students' health," Ackerfeld said. "The universities have a responsibility to place and promote student's safety above the school's reputations."

McGraw said the university's reputation and the scrutiny it has faced over the past year are not the reasons for the increased police presence.

"We are doing this for the safety of the students and because marijuana is an illegal drug," McGraw said.

Erin Holben, a sophomore English major at CU, said she participated in the celebration at Farrand Field last year and plans to do the same this year, despite the increase in police supervision.

"It's fun and relaxing," Holben said. "It's not like everyone is getting wasted. It's just an excuse to relax and enjoy a beautiful spring day."

Brian Hardouin, director of RamRide and former elections manager for the Associated Students of CSU, said he has never heard of any marijuana celebrations on April 20 in Fort Collins or at CSU.

Eric Mokler, a senior liberal arts and social sciences major, said he believes marijuana should be legal, but he said an organized celebration does not appeal to him.

"Marijuana should be legal; obviously prohibition of marijuana is not working. It is, after all, God's medicine," Mokler said. "The celebration in Farrand Field, however, seems a little pretentious to me. Smoking doesn't make you cool. It is for personal enjoyment."

Bob Maust, the head of CU's Standing Committee on Substance Abuse, said the university is dealing with the alcohol problem but said it is not appropriate to bring marijuana into the problem.

"Both alcohol and marijuana are drugs," Maust said. "However, the main problem we are facing now is alcohol."

Several theories exist as to why April 20 is a significant day for marijuana smokers. April is the fourth month of the year, and some believe that 4-20 relates to either a penal code for marijuana use, the number of chemicals in marijuana or a popular time of day to smoke pot.

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