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Amidst the Haze: University of Colorado-Boulder Draws Attention to Annual Pot Rally Crackdown

At least one Native from the Denver area thinks the University of Colorado-Boulder’s (CU) stench-based approach to curtailing a marijuana celebration April 20 is a tempest in a teapot—or pot, perhaps more appropriately.

Glenn Morris, of Shawnee descent, a political science professor at CU-Denver and leader of the American Indian Movement-Colorado, usually has more weighty matters on his mind than an authoritarian squelching of pot-smoking on a spring day. So, asked for his reaction, he said, “I think the university is making a big to-do about not very much.”

The weightier matters that are his purview may actually be less controversial than CU’s approach to the annual holiday April 20 that celebrates marijuana, known more familiarly as “peji” in parts of Indian country.

The university spread fertilizer over a quadrangle at CU to deter celebrants from holding a rally there. Some 10,000 students and others convened there last year, but on Friday, April 20, only three arrests for trespassing were reported and a couple of tickets were issued, one each for trespassing and one for marijuana possession.

Although there were plans to move the party elsewhere—one rumored spot was the Red Rocks amphitheater west of Denver—a few hundred partiers ended up in an open field on campus, despite an edict that no one was to enter the campus without a permit.

There were some individual protests and even an outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union, which objected to the possible curtailment of students’ right to free expression.

“It’s just like a non-issue to me, but I guess it’s important to some folks,” Morris said. “I think the university is drawing more attention to it than they expected.”

The Associated Press termed CU’s April 20 celebration one of the largest campus festivities in the country, where other pot holidays take place across the country in large metro areas, including Denver, and on both coasts. The annual celebration outside Colorado’s capitol has drawn huge crowds, with police generally taking a ho-hum approach to minor violations.

The weekend rally at the capitol will be a venue for some politicking for various pro- and anti-pot measures that will vie for support before November, when at least one measure to loosen legal restraints will be on the ballot. Although federal law prohibits marijuana use, state law has allowed its limited use for medical reasons.

The actual medical issue may be caused by the drifting clouds of haze above the heads of hundreds, maybe thousands, of pot-smokers enjoying a fine April day.

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