DENVER — Thousands of people have converged on Denver's Civic Center for what organizers say is the largest marijuana celebration in the country.
The rally — held on a day cannabis enthusiasts regard as a holiday called 4/20 — is expected to draw tens of thousands by 4:20 p.m., when attendees will take a collective exhale that fogs the space between Denver's city hall and Colorado's state Capitol with a thick cloud of marijuana smoke. This is the first 4/20 rally since Colorado voters legalized marijuana use for people 21 and older in November, and rally organizers have said they expected 80,000 people to attend, though city officials say they expect fewer.
Marijuana smoking in public remains illegal, but police — whoare out in force at the event — have said they will take a measured approach.
"We're not going to be tackling 10,000 people and writing them all a citation," said Denver police spokesman Matt Murray.
Paramedics are also watching the rally. By 2:30 p.m. Saturday, they said they had taken one rallygoer to the hospital for overconsumption of marijuana.
The rally is the centerpiece of a week-long collection of marijuana-centric concerts, exhibitions and festivals.
At a show Friday night at the Fillmore Auditorium, Snoop Lion — the musician formerly known as Snoop Dogg — tossed joints into the crowd at midnight to kick off 4/20.
Outside the EXDO Event Center in Denver on Saturday, marijuana enthusiasts waited for up to two hours to get into the High Times Cannabis Cup — an annual marijuana competition and convention that is being held for the first time this year in the United States. In the parking lots of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, ticket-holders for an evening concert featuring Slightly Stoopid and Cypress Hill began gathering at mid-day.
And at the Warwick Hotel in Denver, the first marijuana tourism company in America set up its headquarters for the weekend, as it is shepherds nearly 200 pot tourists from classes on cooking with marijuana to cultivation tours to the 4/20 rally.
"I just wanted to be part of history," said Chris Fowlie, who traveled from New Zealand to be part of the weekend. "This is history in the making here."
For members of Smart Colorado, a group opposed to marijuana use and sales, the weekend's events set a different kind of precedent.
"These events, which will be covered by national media, will send a clear message to the rest of the nation and the world about what Colorado looks like in the wake of the passage of Amendment 64 last fall,' Smart Colorado leader Henny Lasley said. "Does the behavior of the participants in these events reflect well on our state?"
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, or