Log In

Reset Password

Our View: 420 events mark evolution of marijuana movement

Before Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, 2014, cannabis enthusiasts’ annual, iconic holiday on April 20, to ritualistically gather in public and smoke marijuana at precisely 4:20 p.m. was a defiant demonstration with a low, clingy, pungent cloud overhead.

Law enforcement could have arrested some people smoking weed, but not the majority. Not the hundreds. An issue of crowd control, it was safer to allow it rather than cite or arrest.

Now more weed lifestyle celebration than in-your-face call to action, 420 get-togethers include music festivals, events and private parties. At the Durango Arts Center, a Build a Bong workshop is billed as “Perfect for a stoner couple date idea, a great way to hang out or simply make new friends while you build the piece of your dreams.”

Things sure have changed in 10 years. Now, 420 marks the moment in the evolution of the marijuana movement.

Despite the transformation from counter culture to, well, what it is now, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. This impacts federal jobs, housing, student loans, public lands and more.

Still, some things would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

For example, people who qualify for the state’s marijuana social equity licenses receive breaks in growing pot businesses. Criteria benefit those arrested – or whose family members were – on cannabis charges; people earning less than 50% of the state median income; and those coming from a low-economic opportunity zone community. A business must be 51% owned by someone under the program.

It’s all meant to create diverse, minority ownership.

On April 4, Gov. Jared Polis announced pilot program Access Expert to support social equity licensed cannabis businesses, connecting them with professionals in marketing, web design, financial consulting, compliance and more, at little or no cost.

In 2012, when signature petitions were circulating, we were intrigued by how Amendment 64 would mandate an excise tax with the first $40 million collected for school construction, under the Building Excellent Schools Today program. (Currently, Montezuma-Cortez School District is considering a BEST grant, along with a bond, to built a new elementary school.)

This funding has its limits, though. The money can’t fund teachers’ salaries and districts remain cash-strapped, even though $2.7 billion in taxes and fees has been collected from cannabis businesses and sales. By March, Colorado retailers have sold $15.6 billion worth of marijuana since January 2014.

The green news hasn’t been all been good, either. We question whether easy access to pot has influenced young people and is too accepted.

But the goods are out of the bag, so to speak, to the point of changing minds and customs about use. The marijuana movement is no longer fringe. Those who opposed legalization waved off the possibilities as people talking while high. Now arrests and incarcerations are considered economic costs of prohibition.

A couple of (cherry-picked, subjective) notable events since legalization:


January: The Colorado Department of Transportation replaced mile marker 420 along Interstate 70 in eastern Colorado with mile marker 419.99 to thwart those continually swiping the sign. No figures available on how many residential High Drive signs in mountain communities have been stolen. (We’ve heard they don’t stay up for long.)

May: Denver city officials asked the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to rethink its plans to hold bring-your-own-pot performances, fearing a violation of laws prohibiting public consumption. Again, the CSO. Not a Dead & Company show.


January: University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law adds marijuana business law to its curriculum.


November: Edgewater, population 4,900 west of Denver, puts $3 million from tax revenues toward building a $13 million municipal complex with a library, police station, fitness center and city offices.


April: Colorado’s marijuana industry dubs weed sales “the worst” in five years, as the industry contends with too much supply, not enough demand and increased competition from other states.

August: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the Drug Enforcement Administration consider reclassifying marijuana as a lower-risk drug. To date, it remains a Schedule I substance.