Rob Douglas: Denver pot rally does harm |

Rob Douglas: Denver pot rally does harm

Rob Douglas

Last Saturday, as elected officials across Colorado continued to wrestle with drafts of laws and regulations implementing Amendment 64, thousands of people gathered in Denver's Civic Center Park for the annual 4/20 rally protesting laws restricting the use of marijuana.

Evidently, for a certain segment of society, firing up a doobie causes political retardation.

If Miguel Lopez and the other organizers behind last weekend's 4/20 rally hoped to constructively influence officials across Colorado who are grappling with Amendment 64, they failed.

On the other hand, if the organizers and participants of the annual marijuana smoke-in sought to demonstrate they are anarchists who will defy any law regulating marijuana, they succeeded.

Because of the politically immature and lawless behavior of Lopez and his ilk, it will be harder for responsible proponents of legalized marijuana to convince their elected representatives to implement Amendment 64 as liberally as possible. Just like the Steamboat Springs City Council, dozens of legislative bodies across Colorado will have to decide how to deal with recreational marijuana businesses in the next several months.

Even before three people at the rally were shot and others, including Lopez, were injured by the human stampede following the gunfire, the in-your-face violations of existing drug laws on display at the protest — in spite of Coloradans having passed Amendment 64 — provided visual ammunition to those who warned that the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana possession and use for adults 21 and older will harm Colorado's image as a family-friendly state.

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The clear message to lawmakers from Lopez and his followers is that they will not abide by any law regulating marijuana. In a lengthy and rambling Jan. 28 press release, Lopez announced the purpose of the 4/20 protest. Here are several excerpts.

"The enduring ambition of the marijuana movement at large is to legalize marijuana by explicitly removing it from the Controlled Substance Abuse Act, decidedly repealing all marijuana laws and releasing current prisoners of the war on marijuana. Amendment 64 did not remove criminal penalties, making concessions for people currently in jail for non-violent marijuana offenses and ignored the 18-21 year old community. … There should have also been guidelines for the smoking of marijuana in public treating it more like tobacco regulation and the Clean Indoor Air Act.

"The Denver 420 Rally & allies advocate human rights and believes fully that the war on marijuana is a war on poor and marginalized members of the community. Native Americans, Latino Americans, African Americans & poor White Americans have been targeted predominantly in the drug war for nearly a hundred years. The marijuana laws themselves were racist! Worst of all, Amendment 64 was created by the wealthy, for the wealthy, and even more disgusting, for those who made a fortune on the war on marijuana, such as the private prison industry and planet killing fossil fuels, which are one of the reasons marijuana was criminalized in the first place. All of these are violations of human rights.

"The Denver 420 Rally is committed to getting the greed out of weed. We are also committed to getting our voices heard and are committed to ensuring that all of our rights, our human rights, are being considered. … We will continue to develop confidence and educate the large marijuana community on how to be active members of their community through continued contributions and peaceful political actions.

"Stand up with us and show your support and unity for our cause of total freedom for marijuana locally, federally and globally including removing marijuana from the NATO Drug Treaty Act."

Clearly, Lopez thinks the "enduring ambition of the marijuana movement" — a movement he pretends to lead — is to repeal "all marijuana laws" as a means of achieving "total freedom for marijuana."

Fortunately, there are civil libertarians across Colorado who support the legalization of marijuana while also recognizing the need for appropriate laws and regulations to protect public safety. Those proponents of incremental and rational legalization will work with their elected representatives to implement Amendment 64.

Unfortunately, those libertarians now will have to spend time distancing themselves from the idiocy of anarchists like Lopez who think exhaling a giant cloud of pot smoke at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 is a winning political tactic.

To reach Rob Douglas, email