DENVER -- Thousands of people gathered in downtown Denver in the rain for the annual 4/20 rally Thursday afternoon
This is the 11th year for the pro-pot event at Civic Center Park. It started years ago as a rally to legalize marijuana and has since exploded into a weeklong celebration.
Preparations had been going ahead at full speed since Wednesday, including setting up the main stage and tents for the hundreds of vendors who will be in the park.
“This is, I’d say, New Year’s, Christmas and Hanukkah combined into one week,” said Danny Schaefer, CEO of My 420 Tours.
The annual rally brings in several thousand people into downtown Denver. This year could have an even bigger impact than in years past because events are scheduled throughout the week.
“Through our hotel accommodations, tours and, of course, our event business, we’ll work with probably about 15,000 people this week alone compared to 2,000 or 3,000 people a month for our normal operations,” Schaefer said.
Part of the increase might be because of the way the updated event is attracting new kinds of people.
“It’s no longer the stereotypical stoner. It’s the exact opposite. My mother, empty-nesters,” he said.
More than half of My 420 Tours’ business during 4/20 week comes from out-of-state tourists, the company said. Many have never seen the variety of marijuana products that are offered in Colorado before.
“It went from hidden doors and basements all the way up to a tour bus ride,” said Noah Alvarez, a marijuana tourist from New Mexico.
The extra visitors also require extra security. The Denver Police Department has been meeting regularly with several other city agencies, including RTD and Denver Parks and Recreation, to ensure the event goes smoothly.
“We’ve been planning for probably the last two months,” police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.
While police can’t release specific details about their security plan, the agency says it will be enforcing the laws.
“It’s against the law to consume publicly so last year we did write tickets for it. We will again this year,” Jackson said.
It is illegal to consume marijuana in public places and only those 21 and older can use marijuana in Colorado. It's also illegal to drive high.
Also, it is illegal to take marijuana out of Colorado to another state and only licensed establishments may sell retail marijuana products.
In 2016, police arrested 79 people during the 4/20 rally. Sixty-four of those arrests were marijuana-related.
The 4/20 rally event began at 10 a.m. at Civic Center Park. There was a free concert beginning at 2 p.m. featuring rap artist 2 Chainz. The event also featured local vendors.