Denver 4/20 Rally Marred by Gunfire

By McCarton Ackerman 04/22/13

Some say the shootings, and the rally itself, could set the pot legalization movement back.

Gunshots sent revelers running for safety.
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Gun violence interrupted Denver's annual 4/20 marijuana festival this past weekend and some say the incident could harm the marijuana movement at large. Three people including a child were injured by bullets fired during the opening the day of festival on Saturday, resulting in the crowd of an estimated 80,000 people surging out onto surrounding streets. As expected, the event drew record numbers this year, but the second day's activities were cancelled following the shootings. Authorities released descriptions of two suspects, but no arrests have been made. Marijuana legalization advocates say the shootings, and also the festival itself, could damage legalization efforts by giving marijuana, and its users, a negative public image. “If organizers wanted to give the feds a reason to come raid Colorado, they succeeded. This whole episode will take legalization efforts several steps backward,” says Jessica Peck, a Denver lawyer and marijuana-decriminalization advocate. “The vast majority of legitimate industry condemns these events, but most people watching television coverage of the event will see instead images of a 30-year-old stoner... rambling about how great pot is.” Joe Megysey, a spokesman for the Amendment 64 campaign, says that this is "not a marijuana problem. This is a gang problem," citing a shooting at a Denver jazz festival last year. However, he also believes that marijuana rallies do more harm than good in terms of legalization efforts. “As we move toward normalizing marijuana and as legalization moves forward, these kinds of rallies will become a thing of the past,” he says. “They’re almost like civil disobedience now.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.