CU’s misguided 4/20 approach

Paul Danish | Boulder Weekly

CU has an interesting new strategy for dealing with the campus’s annual 4/20 rally and pot inhalation this year.


It appears to have gotten it from North Korea.

The strategy involves 1) hermetically sealing the campus borders to prevent the entry of corrupting outsiders, 2) arresting and prosecuting anyone who penetrates the cordon sanitaire, and 3) fertilizing the Norlin Quad, where the pot smoking has occurred in recent years, with a fish-based fertilizer, which presumably stinks.

In addition to securing the borders of the Hermit University, rounding up any undesirables who might sneak in, and spraying the 4/20 venue with the next best thing to Agent Orange, one final stratagem will be deployed: Shortly before the 4:20 hour, the CU student body will be lured into a concrete bunker (aka the Coors Events Center) with the promise of a free concert by a former candidate for the presidency of Haiti.

The performer and ex-candidate is hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean — who advocates marijuana legalization. The concert is going to cost $150,000.

It’s not clear how much the fish fertilizer will cost.

So why is CU going to all this trouble to stop an event that has generally caused less trouble than a run-of-the-mill rowdy apartment party?

According to CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano, “The gathering disrupts teaching and research right in the heart of the campus. 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.”

I think he’s being a bit disingenuous. Disrupts teaching and research, huh?

What does he think hosing down the quad with liquid lutefisk will do? Not that CU is exactly a beehive of teaching and research on Friday afternoons at 4:20 p.m. Give me a break.

The truth, of course, is CU wants to be rid of the 4/20 pot party because it involves massive law-breaking, and the school’s inability to prevent it is an ongoing reproach to the competence and legitimacy of the CU administration. And that, in turn, can have real consequences for the university’s funding and independence.

DiStefano should have the candor to acknowledge that much. If he did, he might get more cooperation from his student body on 4/20 than he’s getting now.

College students admire candor.

I’m guessing CU’s decision to go after the 4/20 rally was influenced by the City of Boulder’s successful campaign to get rid of the annual Halloween Pearl Street Mall Crawl some years ago. But there is a big difference. The Mall Crawl didn’t have a political component to it. The 4/20 event does, and it isn’t a trivial one.

The 4/20 rally’s party atmosphere masks the evil of the thing it is protesting.

The war on pot results in about 850,000 arrests annually. Over the past 30 years, millions of Americans have had their lives gratuitously trashed by government for consensual conduct that is less harmful to both society and the individual than drinking beer. Government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars down the pot war rat hole.

The most substantive thing it has accomplished is to sow the seeds of distrust between people and police, employees and employers, and children and parents — and to spread corruption throughout society. The one thing it hasn’t done is reduce pot use. Today there are 20 million or 30 million users.

The 4/20 rally involves law-breaking, but it also involves civil disobedience that is just as moral and just as justified as the civil disobedience that was directed against segregation two generations ago.

CU should have the candor to acknowledge that as well.

And then there’s this: This year’s 4/20 rally marks the first time more Americans favor legalizing marijuana than oppose legalizing it.

This has been confirmed by at least three national polls and a slew of state and local polls in the last eight months. The most recent was a national survey, released by Rasmussen on March 30, that found 47 percent of those surveyed favored legalizing and taxing marijuana “to help solve America’s fiscal problems.”

Forty-two percent were opposed.

A Gallup survey taken last October found legalization was favored by a 50 percent to 46 percent margin. An Angus Reid survey taken last August also showed support for legalization, 55 percent to 40 percent.

In Colorado, where a legalization initiative will be on the November ballot, a Public Policy Polling survey taken last November found legalization ahead 49 percent to 40 percent.

The important finding in this polling is not the growing support for marijuana legalization, which is still tentative. It is the collapse of opposition to legalization. In the past six years, opposition to legalization has dropped 15 to 20 points in most polls; only about 4 in 10 Americans still favor keeping marijuana illegal. That trend is probably irreversible, and will, in the not too distant future, lead to legalization.

Which makes one wonder why CU going to so much trouble and expense to get on the wrong side of history.

Respond: This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.