DENVER (Reuters) - 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 states to legalize recreational marijuana.
Voters in the two Western states in 2012 approved the legalization of possession and use of weed by adults on private property, although public consumption is still illegal. In January the first retail pot shops opened in Colorado, and stores in Washington are set to follow suit later this year.
In Denver’s Civic Center Park near the state capitol, revelers on Sunday gathered to hear music and listened to speakers in what organizers billed as the “world’s largest 4/20 rally.”
Within the drug culture, “4/20” is synonymous with marijuana.
On Saturday, police issued 32 citations, 22 for public consumption of marijuana and 10 for other offenses at the gathering, said Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Five people were taken to a detoxification center, and two required unspecified “medical” attention, he said.
Jackson said police were not wading into the crowd to arrest violators, but will cite people who openly defy the public consumption ban.
“Those ticketed were blatantly in violation of state law and city ordinances,” Jackson said.
Organizers of the rally and city officials beefed up security at the event after three people were wounded by gunfire at last year’s rally.
City officials also insisted that signs be posted around the park reminding attendees that using pot in public remains illegal in Colorado.
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 features 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 website.
Rachel O‘Bryan, spokeswoman for Smart Colorado, an organization 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.”
Additional reporting by Bryan Cohen in Seattle; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler