The warm Boulder air was thicker with the “atom bomb” of marijuana smoke than anticipation as cries of stoned joy mingled with the bluish haze rising among the still-skeletal tree limbs as 4:20 p.m. approached.
Disregarding an e-mail from the CU-Boulder administration pleading with students to forgo this year’s 4/20 celebration, roughly 10,000 people gathered on the green lawn of CU-Boulder’s Norlin Quad Monday to celebrate what stoners across the nation recognize as something of a national marijuana smoking holiday.
Some on the field claimed to have gathered to push for marijuana legalization, some to flaunt their illegal recreation choices under the nose of the law, some to enjoy the celebration, some to sell their pot-printed paraphernalia and some to just revel in a THC-induced delirium.
“Why are we here?” Laura Kriho, a proponent of marijuana legalization yelled to the crowd after taking a mock hit on a giant stuffed joint.
“We’re here cause we like to smoke pot!” she yelled in answer to her own question. “It’s an annual holiday, and there’s not even that many long-haired hippie people.”
Sure enough, men and women; students and elderly; people of all creeds, cultures and backgrounds; and even some long-haired hippie people turned out to do just that: smoke some pot.
The city of Boulder has become something of a stoner Mecca in the last decade, its massive 4/20 celebrations drawing crowds from across the state and even the nation.
One CU-Boulder student who identified herself as Silvia Plath, said she was hesitant to tie drug-use to Boulder culture, but said she thinks the city definitely benefits from all the merchandise sales.
However, Mike, another student who declined to give his last name, said marijuana smoking is an integral part of Boulder’s culture and reputation.
“Boulder is one of the main towns,” Mike said about 4/20 celebrations while puffing a marijuana cigar. “People come to Boulder for the weed city.”
Gray-haired Steve Bell and his fellow homeless companions Carol Seacrest and Joey David Lee hitchhiked from Louisiana to attend Bell’s 30th high school reunion in Loveland, but decided to stop by Boulder on the way for their first 4/20 celebration.
Bell said the truck driver they hitched a ride with asked whether they wanted to get dropped off in Loveland or travel through to Boulder.
“Carol said ‘I need some culture,'” Bell said. “I said, ‘Boulder.'”
“This is an American festival,” Lee said.
Jay Reed, a student from Colorado Springs, also made the trek to Boulder to smoke some weed, chill out and satisfy his munchies with some snacks.
“We’re here to just to f**kin’ hang out and support this and support this cause,” the bandana-sporting Reed said motioning to the crowd after sucking smoke from a blue glass pipe.
While Reed’s “cause” was not readily apparent, others preached their pro-marijuana messages from the low stone walls that line the quad, waving large green signs with boldly printed legalization slogans.
Kriho said marijuana has a variety of positive uses — medical, recreational and industrial — and said the plant has been used by human civilizations without major consequences for thousands of years.
“It’s ingrained in international culture. We could all benefit from [its legalization],” she said.
Bell agreed, saying CU’s annual 4/20 celebration draws large, peaceful crowds and boasts no dangers. That, he said, shows that marijuana’s illegal status is unnecessary.
Plath, who emphasized that she did not inhale the marijuana smoke, also said the celebration was about pushing for legalization.
However, not everyone in attendance smoked marijuana or condoned its use.
Waving a red-lettered sign that read “Getting high makes you stupid” on the edge of the throng, CU-Boulder students Troy Johnson and Garrett Graff said the whole celebration was ridiculous and served only to “create an atom bomb of smoke above campus.”
Johnson said numerous people had yelled at them for protesting the smoke-out, and Graff said the event was much less about standing up for marijuana legalization than many partakers tried to pretend.
“I think 90 percent of the people here just want to smoke and get high on a school day,” Graff said.
Despite the blatant disregard for controlled substance laws, law enforcement officers said their primary concern was maintaining public safety. No tickets were issued during the gathering.
“No structures, no cars, nothing weird,” said one CU police officer who requested anonymity because the department didn’t authorize officers to talk to the media. “As you can see, the number’s overwhelming.”
The heavy police presence did little to deter most of the gathering as they lit up any kind of joint, blunt, pipe or bong they could find and pass around. Some, including Mike, even seemed to take special joy from doing the drug in front of police officers.
“I love it. I think it’s awesome,” he said. “The cops can’t do anything about it.”
News Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.