A sign of the times
demonized and criticized
illegal no more
According to U.S. Census and Uniform Crime Reporting data police in Colorado made 55,900 marijuana possession arrests between 2006-2010. On November 8th, 2012 future arrest numbers went up in smoke as 54% of Colorado voters favored the legalization of marijuana. On January 1st, 2014 the first retail marijuana shops opened for business. In the first two months Colorado made over 6 million dollars in tax revenue from the sale of recreational cannabis. All of that revenue is already earmarked for school construction in Colorado. In fact, the first 40 million in tax revenue the state makes goes to the schools. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
I’ll try not to bore you anymore with stats that I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of times. The fact is, a lot of people all over the world use marijuana. The fact that it was ever criminalized in the first place is one of the greatest muck-ups in American history. American law enforcement has spent billions trying to stem the tide of marijuana users, clogging up our court system with low level drug offenders for decades. It should be legalized across the board in all 50 states. It should be taxed and regulated and the money should be used to clear up our national debt. Who knows? It might even serve to mellow out our increasingly hostile society.
Observing the scene
recognizing the layers
seeing the color
Before I picked up photography I would avoid events such as these like the plague, now I can’t stay away. The energy of the crowd, the diversity, that subtle feeling of tension hanging over the park like a storm cloud. Looking at Denver’s “Official 420 Rally” from an entirely A-Political perspective, it was a crowd like any other, except on this day, the area of Civic Center Park was cordoned off, and inside its boundaries cannabis was being consumed in all variety of ways by an eclectic variety of people.
Just like the “Taste of Colorado” the park is filled with a throng of humans gnawing on giant turkey legs and churros, only today most of them are washing it down with some sort of cannabis soda instead of the customary craft beer or domestic swill (Coors Light, Bud Light, Milwaukee’s Best, PBR) There was alcohol, but it was relegated to a small “bar” in a distant corner. The majority of people today were only interested in smoking weed.
There was a a heavy and very visible police presence, bolstered by a private security company and park rangers. Scaffolding was erected in the center of the park manned with armed guardsthat constantly scanned the crowd with binoculars. Park rangers on bicycles could also be seen buzzing in and out of the crowd. At least one drone was being flown over the festivities, and the entire outer perimeter of the park was surrounded by a layer of black fences. Helicopters periodically flew overhead and I saw one land on the roof of a nearby building. Just beyond the perimeter of the fence along Broadway officers from the Denver Police Department congregated in a display of authority. They don’t usually smile when I take their picture, but I do it anyway.
This event is no place for children, although a small percentage of people with questionable judgement brought their children along. I ran across a mother pushing a child through the hazy smoked filled park, the kid literally looked green to me. There is a brashness to this event that one can’t ignore. The crowd swelled as the clock drew nearer to 4:20 on Easter Sunday. The cloud of smoke hovering over the crowd thickened as they counted down the minutes to the collective exhale. Marijuana is a part of the mainstream culture in Denver now more than ever. There is almost literally a pot shop on every corner, and it is not uncommon to catch a strong hint of the ganja as you are driving around town in your car.
The rally went off without a hitch in my opinion, except for the overwhelming sense of unease I felt with the extremely heightened security presence which is more of a personal thing. If I wasn’t taking pictures, I wouldn’t be here. These are the people that I observed.
burning the sweet leaf
passing it among themselves
A green cloud descended on the park.
The crowd shuffled and smoked and meandered
and smoked and shuffled and smoked
Old heads and young blood
tough guys and hippies
girls of all shapes and sizes
and every once in a while you might see a baby in a stroller
guys and dogs and babies of all shapes and sizes
a constant scent of weed in the air
every one here has cotton mouth
unmanned drones scan the crowd from above
security guards on tall scaffolding
armed to the teeth
helicopters frequently circle the park
fences circle the park
cops circle the park
deviance and good Samaritan-ism
face to face
the hall monitors vs the kids from detention
the free spirits vs the straight and narrows
Over the Public address system a man says: “You are standing on some of the freest soil in America right now”
He said it from behind a riot fence and a wall of bullet proof glass
with a fence holding all the freedom lovers in one area
subject to searches on the way in AND out
it feels like they are laughing at us
the hula-hoopers and the hare krishnas
the skaters and the punks
the gangsters and the just plain crazy
aren’t we all?
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