In the five years since Colorado launched legal marijuana sales, 4/20 in the Mile High City has evolved from day of activism to a celebration of cannabis culture that doubles as the unofficial start of concert season. And as normalization takes root, 2019's high holiday offers new opportunities to put the recreation in recreational marijuana with hiking, yoga, and even a 4.20K road race.
What to Know About Denver
Denver's annual 4/20 rally in Civic Center Park — first officially permitted by the city in 2008 — was a critical catalyst in shifting public opinion towards the Nov. 6, 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which enshrined legal production, distribution, sale and adult use of cannabis in the state's constitution. Colorado's sales have since topped $6 billion, raking in more than $927 million in tax revenue for the state.
Denver seemed on the verge of cannabis boom 2.0 in November 2016 after voters passed Initiative 300, which established a licensing scheme for businesses to allow adult consumption, however onerous restrictions placed those licenses largely snuffed out the city's social-use economy. This 4/20, it remains illegal to consume cannabis “openly or publicly,” although the legal definition of that phrase remains up in the air.
Meanwhile, a slew of private BYO pot clubs, party buses, and event companies have sprouted, employing invitation and membership models to avoid the “public” designation and sidestep the Colorado Indoor Clean Air Act. Nonetheless, scores of thousands lit up openly and publicly at last year's 4/20 festival in the Civic Center, with police handing out 73 citations, twice as many as were issued in 2017.
It's a safe bet the fuzz will be out in force again at the 2019 festivities, so leave your rigs and torches at home and carry no more than 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of cannabis or 8 grams (0.28 ounces) of concentrates on your person and the chances are good your 4/20 observances will go unimpeded.
Things to do in Denver on 4/20
FlyHi 420 Festival
Denver's 4/20 rally makes its transformation to music festival official with a name change and a Southern hip-hop-heavy lineup headlined by T.I. and Jermaine Dupri and featuring Eye.Am.Shane, $ubxrox MetaOx and Big Legion x Hurox. Organizers announced that no bags will be allowed through the gates to eliminate security lines that in 2018 wrapped around the park; stash accordingly.
- Civic Center Park, 101 W. 14th Ave., Denver
- Gates open at 10 a.m.
Stick Figure with Pepper and Steel Pulse at Red Rocks
Stick Figure's sonic soundscapes are rooted in a roots-dub reggae, and — paired with Peppers raucous rock-reggae — sure bring your 4/20 to an awesome apex. Red Rocks isn't just one of the most stunning live-music venues on the planet, it's also a perch where you can light up with aplomb.
- Red Rock Amphitheater, 18300 W Alameda Parkway, Morrison
- Doors open at 5 p.m.
- Price: $40
Method Man and Redman at Cervantes Masterpiece
“How High 2” sans Method Man and Redman? No thanks. While MTV debuts the sanitized sequel to the 2001 stoner flick, the East Coast hip-hop greats will be bumping one of the Mile High City's legendary venues, a 1930s-era Five Points joint that has hosted luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, and Ike and Tina Turner.
- Cervantes' Masterpiece, 2637 Welton St., Denver
- Doors open at 8 p.m.
- Price: $42, sold out but available for purchase/exchange on Lyte.
Dean Ween's Honey Pot presents The Puff Ball
Count legendary alt-rocker Dean Ween (née Mickey Melchiondo) among the entrepreneurs sidestepping Denver's onerous social-use licensing scheme for the private club model. Dean Ween's Honey Pot Lounge, a BYO weed music venue in the heart of Denver's “Green Mile,” opened its doors the first week of April. For this 4/20 show, Ween moves the music to LoDo's Summit and adds special guest The Color Red Allstars featuring guitarist and Color Red founder Eddie Roberts, drummer Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic), and trumpet player Gabriel Mervine (formerly of The Motet).
- Summit, 1902 Blake St., Denver
- Doors open at 8 p.m.
- Price: $40, or $45 day of show
Tips From Denver Locals
“Skip Civic Center Park,” said Jake Browne, founder of The Grow-Off. “It used to be a weird mix of a political rally, hacky sacking, and C-list rappers, which made for excellent people-watching that ended in a giant cloud of cannabis smoke. Now that it has gone corporate and police ticket people who puff, it's a pretty lame way to get stuck in traffic. Avoid downtown like the plague and enjoy the holiday stoned off your ass at a local museum — or take a hike. Just don't get too stoned to attend one of the millions of concerts that night. That's where the real fun is on 4/20 in Denver.”
“Plan in advance. And stay hydrated!” said Janae Burris, a Denver comedian and actor starring in “Between Us” this spring at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. “And as part of that plan, consider walking or ride-sharing, because traffic and parking will be horrendous everywhere.”
“Pick up your stash a day or two in advance so you can roll over and roll up when the clock strikes 4:20 p.m. instead of panicking about the nug crumbs left in your jar,” said Christian J. Harris, a Denver creator and entrepreneur. “Waking up on 4/20 in Denver without your supplies fully stocked is a rookie move. Stroll into the dispensary like it's August 13th or January 30th, and you'll find that the normal 10-minute wait is boosted to 30 minutes – or even an hour or more.”