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Hearing of 4/20 fest violations and ban underway

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The party is on pause for now. - MIRANDA NELSON / FLICKR.COM
  • Miranda Nelson / Flickr.com
  • The party is on pause for now.
This year’s 4/20 festival was a bit messy. Recall from our past reporting that the annual marijuana celebration, held in Denver’s Civic Center Park, attracted thousands of people to hear live music, make art and, in some cases, smoke some weed in public. But, during the event, which has quickly gone from fringe to mainstream, fences got trampled and someone got shot. The next day, the area was still strewn with trash.

Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, which issued the event permit, sent a notice of violation to the event organizer, activist Miguel Lopez. The 11-page letter cites five main areas of concern: noise, trash, security, health and street closure. He was slapped with more than $11,000 in fines and a three-year ban from pulling permits that includes, notably, a loss of his “priority status,” which means he no longer has first right to organizing an event on that date at that location annually.

Lopez, represented by attorney Robert Corry, appealed the ban. They argued that the park was cleaned up within the permitted time frame, that the event wasn’t noisy enough to constitute a violation of city ordinance, and that supposed security issues, like long lines, didn’t present any real danger to attendees. They also pushed back hard on the city’s insinuation that the event organizer was to blame for the shooting. “As if the tragic Boston Marathon bombing ... was somehow the fault of the organizers of the Boston Marathon,” the appeal says.

The appeal hearing began Sept. 19 and stretched into Sept. 20. City employees testified to what they witnessed that day, and the organizer’s lawyer presented his arguments.

Retired Judge David Ramirez served as hearing officer. According to Denver Parks and Recreation spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski the two sides will submit post-hearing briefs for Ramirez to consider. He will issue a ruling on the appeal within 30 days of receiving those briefs. Corry, she said, hinted he would take it to district court if things don’t go his client’s way.

The department will start accepting applications for 2018 events permits on Nov. 1. April 20 will be off limits to new applicants until Lopez’s appeal is fully adjudicated. If he loses, and the three-year ban goes into effect, anyone can apply to organize next year’s 4/20 festival. Though last year’s would be quite an act to follow.

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