Perspectives on the Denver “420” Disruption

Yesterday's historic "420" rally in Denver, the first since Colorado voted to legalize marijuana last fall, was marred and cut short by violence. Two unidentified gunmen shot and wounded three people — two attendees were shot in the leg and were rushed to a nearby hospital with "non-life-threatening-injuries," and a teen was grazed by a bullet and walked there, according to the Denver Post. Attendees fled the scene, and the remainder of the event as well a smaller one planned for today were canceled.

It was not the kind of day those three people or their friends had planned, and that's the most important thing to keep in mind. It was also not the kind of day that thousands attending including many who traveled from afar had planned either. It's lucky there were no trampling injuries, at least no serious ones, apparently.

Without forgetting what's most important — the people most directly affected — it's also worth noting that this is obviously not the kind of headline that legalization advocates wanted. The story had the top spot on Google News for a time last night, and continues to hold front page placement as I write this. That's an unfortunate accomplishment, particularly after the grim and violent week we just lived through. But does it hurt the cause?

After looking through news reports, I don't think so. The only criticism of the idea of the rally was from a Colorado anti-marijuana group, appearing well toward the end of the article. Most of it was sympathetic reporting about the victims, about organizers cooperating with police, police looking for information on the suspects, who the musical acts were, how police even before Amendment 64 passed had focused on crowd safety rather than marijuana enforcement during Denver's 420 events. I have not yet seen any quotes suggesting that marijuana use had any connection to the violence, though I've not done an exhaustive search.

Of course there's an opportunity cost from this unfortunate story replacing the story we'd hoped for of legal marijuana becoming a mainstream, accepted reality. And it's hard to know whether the coverage reflects maturation on the part of the media's treatment of the marijuana issue, vs. the violence forcing things into perspective. But I lean toward the former, and there's some comfort from seeing marijuana reformers and public safety personnel so clearly on the same side. At least that's how it looks from a distance. Our movement is part of larger society, and we are vulnerable to all the same dangers.

Let's hope the victims' injuries are no worse than reported, and for their swift recovery.

– Article originally from Stop the Drug War, used with permission.



  1. gutrod on

    The whole affair stinks of a conspiracy but could be just another gun toting nut.
    You can get shot anywhere any time as recent history has shown. The victims are martyrs and should get free pot while they recover.

  2. Bryan Collis on

    Probably the shooters were hired by the alcohol lobby, and the Feds. They can’t have people finding out that marijuana is a superior, less harmful buzz, and not REEFER MADNESS. Alcohol is the only drug in use where I have seen people who can’t walk, talk,stand,read the alphabet, and piss and shit themselves. Every town has a drunk tank. Where are the pothead tanks ?? Don’t need them. I would much rather spend time with a heroin addict than try to carry on a conversation with someone wasted on alcohol. Alcohol IS the hardest drug available and its at every store ?? What a joke. alcohol=vomit and death by liver disease. Your government chooses to poison alcoholics to an early death. This shit isn’t fit for human consumption(except in moderation).It should be a movie called Alcohol Madness. Alcohol causes all of the insane behaviors, violence and sex crimes shown in “reefer madness. Tired of fucking waiting for decrim, while I watch drunks who have lost ALL of their faculties fuck up themselves and society !!