Make new 4/20 plans, Denver officials just killed the High Times Cannabis Cup

Make new 4/20 plans, Denver officials just killed the High Times Cannabis Cup

VicesFebruary 17, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

Denver's Adams County hates legal marijuana. They like profiting from Colorado's legalized pot, (the state raked nearly $1 billion last year alone), but they really, really don't like when people use it. Especially around other people.

To demonstrate this, they've gone ahead and rejected event permits for this year's 2016 High Times Cannabis Cup, signaling what could be the end of Denver's once-welcoming weed environment.

For the uninitiated, Denver's Cannabis Cup is a big ass deal. With an annual attendance of over 35,000 people, it's one of the largest ticketed marijuana events on the planet. Typically, it takes the form of a vast, outdoor marijuana fair that ends with a massive 4/20 rally downtown. There are strain competitions, product samples, concerts and Snoop Dogg usually shows up in some iteration of his Snoop Dogginess. Undoubtedly, it's the highlight of the year for anyone who wants to celebrate their right to legal weed.

But given the city's increasing party-foul mentality, it's dubious whether any sort of large-scale 4/20 scale event will happen this year at all.

Adams County commissioners unanimously denied the Denver Merchandise Mart a permit for the April 16-20 event, citing testimony from law enforcement officials who complained there were too many people sampling too many weed products in public the past few years. Because isn't it crazy to think that people would sample a legal substance?

“From a safety perspective, I have serious concerns about this event and this venue,” Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh told the commission. Apparently, he was referring to last year, when a military vet experienced breathing problems after sampling a product and a female jumped out of a moving vehicle.

Considering that nearly 15,000 people per day attend the Cannabis Cup, those incidents are so unbelievably minor, a negative incident report rate of 0.00013 percent, that it's hard to believe the commission would reject the entire event on those grounds. On any given day, in any town in America, we can bet you that much worse things than breathing problems and one crazy lady's antics occur.

After all, life is dangerous whether there's weed involved or not. People get sick and die from drug and alcohol overdoses every day, every where. Yet we're still waiting to see a marijuana-related death or a grievous injury that can solely be blamed on pot consumption and not a rare drug interaction.

Not to mention the fact that either of those negative reactions people had at last year's event could have occurred if they were using pot privately, making it bullshit-y that the county chose to focus on those accounts as reasons to reject the Cup's permit.

People's health and safety should be the first priority at any event, especially ones that bear the possibility of inebriation, but when considering this, shouldn't officials should be comparing real, plausible risk with hyperbolic danger?

Making all this even weirder is the fact that all this was fine and dandy with the city before recreational pot was legalized in 2014. Denver has been hosting the Cannabis Cup at various venues without incident since 2010; four years before there was even such thing as recreational weed. Yet now that weed is fully legal and supposedly "regulated like alcohol or tobacco," the city suddenly has a problem with people sampling pot in public. No sense made there.

Another bogus reason the permits were denied was the event's size. Representatives from the Cannabis Cup estimated that crowds would average around 16,000 people daily including vendors and event staff, which exceeds the event organizer’s suggested cap of 15,000 attendees and what fire officials have said is a safe number of people at that site. We're not sure why that problem wouldn't easily be solved by limiting the amount of tickets that could be sold per day, but ... okay.

Denver's rejection of the Cannabis Cup permit is the nail in the coffin that is their earnest attept to shut down pot celebration. In 2015, they kicked off their reign of hard-assery by prohibiting free pot samples at the event, defeating the purpose and making it so there was nothing for people to do there other than mill about and look at stuff. That was irritating but fine, and we'd gladly take that over nothing, but apparently 2016 holds no such luck.

The only hope for the Cannabis Cup this year is to find another venue, a tall order for a 16,000 person per day event. But with the city's recent trend of making things difficult for high-capacity outdoor music festivals like Snowball and ChiveFest, we're not sure they're really in the mood to be liberal with weed event space. Last year, the city canceled the Denver County Fair's Pot Pavilion due to problems with public consumption regulation, too.

So, what's a guy/gal/genderless stoner to do? For now, abide by Denver's weird anti-public consumption laws and expect them to permeate the experience of your favorite events, because it doesn't look like the city is going to give up on its crusade against marijuana events. And remember; it's always perfectly acceptable to smoke legal weed alone, on private property, where no one can smell or see you. America?

Cover photo: Wheat City Magazine // Jin Won King