Mitchell Ashton, Amber Arrington, and Auto Octavius roll
joints at the Seattle Hempfest 4/20 event in Seattle.
Thousands of marijuana enthusiasts gathered in Colorado
and Washington state over the weekend for an annual celebration
of cannabis culture with rallies, concerts and trade shows in
the first two US states to legalise recreational marijuana.
Voters in both Western states approved ballot initiatives in
2012 allowing personal possession and use of marijuana by
anyone aged 21 and or older for purposes of just getting
high, though public consumption of pot remains illegal.
In January the world's first state-licensed retail marijuana
outlets opened for business in Colorado, and stores in
Washington are set to follow suit later this year. Both
states are among 20 that have already removed criminal
sanctions for medical use of marijuana.
The federal government still classifies marijuana as an
illegal narcotic, but the Obama administration has given
states new leeway to experiment with legalised cannabis.
In Denver's Civic Center Park near the state capital,
revellers gathered to hear music and listened to speakers
during a weekend event that organisers billed as the "world's
largest 4/20 rally."
The date of April 20, or 4/20, corresponds to the numerical
code widely recognised within the cannabis subculture as a
symbol for all things marijuana.
Police officers standing by on the fringes of the Denver
festival issued 63 citations, most for smoking pot in public
- a ticket that carries a fine of $150. About half as many
were cited on Saturday, police said.
At least eight individuals were taken to a detoxification
facility for treatment during the two days, police said.
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said officers have
refrained from wading into the crowd to arrest violators, but
instead were citing people who openly defied the public
"Those ticketed were blatantly in violation of state law and
city ordinances," Jackson said.
Organisers of the rally and city officials beefed up security
at the event after three people were wounded by gunfire at
last year's rally.
Separately, the Cannabis Cup, a trade show sponsored by High
Times magazine, drew sold-out crowds over the weekend at a
Denver convention venue.
The two-day event featured marijuana sampling and workshops,
such as how to open a pot shop, cultivation tips, and how to
talk to children about weed, according to the event's
Rachel O'Bryan, spokeswoman for Smart Colorado, an
organisation that advocates for stricter enforcement of
marijuana laws, said the cannabis industry needs to do more
to police its own.
"People are flouting the law by openly consuming," she said.
"We're concerned about the message that sends to our kids."
In Seattle, several hundred people who paid $15 a head
crowded the interior of a former brewery where Rainier Beer
was made for decades to attend a 4/20 gathering organised by
sponsors of the city's annual Hempfest rally.
Reggae music played over loudspeakers and the air inside was
thick with the sweet, skunky odour of cannabis. But no police
were visible at the event, which organisers deliberately held
on private space leased from the brewery owners in an
industrial section of the city south of downtown.
The gathering featured a workshop on how to roll a joint with
an entire ounce (28 grams) of marijuana - the legal limit for
personal possession in the state - as well as vendors selling
pipes and other paraphernalia, and a blind-toke test in which
participants tried to distinguish between different strains
of pot by sampling them. Attendees ranged from middle-aged
baby boomers to a younger crowd from the so-called millennial
A cheer from the crowd went up at precisely 4:20 p.m. local
time, as many attendees milling about outside lit joints and
pipes simultaneously, sending puffs of smoke into the air
followed by raucous fits of coughing.
One woman in the crowd accepted a joint handed her from a
"You look just like Jesus," she exclaimed in an apparent
reference to the event coinciding with Easter Sunday. "How
does it feel to be risen?"
Doug Medina, 54, said he traveled hundreds of miles with his
wife and daughter from Billings, Montana, to Seattle for the
4/20 weekend celebrations there.
"It feels a little more open than it did five or 10 years
ago," he said while smoking a joint outside the brewery.