The University of Colorado Boulder campus will be a virtual police state Friday as university administrators attempt to thwart the school's unofficial annual 4/20 rally. Administrators last Friday announced plans to heighten security, including barring the public from entering the grounds of the public university.
Clouds of smoke hover over the crowd estimated at 10,000 at last year's rally. (NORML)
The annual campus event, featuring speakers and marijuana, has drawn thousands of attendees in recent years, including around 10,000 last year. Over the years, university administrators have tried various means to suppress the event, but this year, they are really clamping down. That has the ACLU crying foul.
The university's security plan for Friday includes barring everyone except students, faculty, and staff from campus and threatening to issue trespassing citations to violators. Those tickets carry a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. All students, faculty, and staff must carry and present university-issued identification as they pass through police check-points set up at all major campus entrances.
Officially sanctioned campus visitors -- those who have tickets for university events or who are participating in academic meetings, symposia, and other events—must apply for a special registration to be able to get onto the campus. No visitors, even the officially sanctioned ones, will be allowed to park on campus, and police will be patrolling parking lots.
The on-campus site of the 4/20 rally, the grassy area of the Norlin Quad, will be closed to everyone, and anyone entering it, even students, will be cited for trespassing. The university will also go the extra mile by dumping fish fertilizer on the Quad the day of the rally.
The university is also threatening to once again ticket people for marijuana possession and is promising "a larger presence of officers" this year. It said campus police, as well as police from other regional agencies, will be on hand, and the Colorado State Patrol will be conducting "enhanced patrols" on local highways.
And the university is calling in the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, which will have a team of officers deployed on campus across Boulder "to monitor medical marijuana centers and ensure compliance with licensing regulations." School officials warned that anyone caught smoking pot could lose his or her medical marijuana registration, in addition to fines and university sanctions.
The university has also scheduled a Wyclef Jean concert for Friday afternoon in a bid to draw students away from the 4/20 rally. Ironically for a campus where students have embraced the "marijuana is safer than alcohol" message, the concert will be held at the Coors Performing Arts Center.
UC-Boulder is one of the Colorado campuses where Mason Tvert and SAFER
(Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreations) honed their "marijuana is safer" message, winning non-binding initiatives among students, before moving on to win a legalization vote in Denver and, this year, successfully waging a campaign with allies to put the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
legalization initiative on the November ballot.
"The gathering disrupts teaching and research right in the heart of the campus," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, as he announced the measures. "The size of the crowd has become unmanageable, and limits our faculty, staff and students from getting to class, entering buildings and doing their basic work. It needs to end."
But Mark Silverstein, director of the ACLU of Colorado, said the university's clamp down was a bid to thwart free speech.
"By closing the campus to visitors, establishing checkpoints, assigning uniformed officers to check papers and threatening arrests of visitors without proper credentials, the university does a disservice to the values that underlie the First Amendment and the constitutionally protected right to dissent," he told the school newspaper the Daily Camera
While the Constitution doesn't include the right to smoke marijuana in public, he said, it does protect the rights of students to assemble with others to express their views, including non-students. Silverstein declined to say whether the ACLU would take legal action.
As for Wyclef Jean, the former Fugees singer and Haitian presidential candidate told the Daily Camera
he was down with 4/20.
"I look up to people like Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, you know what I'm saying? I would say for me it's more -- those kinds of holidays are natural. For me that's an everyday holiday," he said before saying marijuana should be legalized because it's mostly harmless, prohibition has never worked, and it could be a boost for the economy.
"It's not about the marijuana smoking," Jean said. "At the end of the day, the teens are out there and they're going to do ecstasy, they're gonna do coke, they're gonna do molly, and they're going to OD. Something that's from the ground, an herb, used an in a responsible form, I can't see what's wrong."
Maybe Jean could take time after his performance to clue in the chancellor.