DENVER — As Colorado residents celebrated the pot holiday of 4/20, Denver police issued 63 citations or arrests for public consumption Saturday and Sunday at the official 4/20 rally at Civic Center Park in Denver.
It may be legal to buy marijuana in Colorado, but you can't smoke it in public — even at a rally celebrating 4/20.
Twelve tickets were issued to people from out of state.
"I'm not worried about it today," said one man. "I think in general people are not smoking in public as much. I mean I don't see it and I don't smoke in public."
The holiday has gone mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
Tens of thousands gathered for a weekend of Colorado cannabis-themed festivals and entertainment, from a marijuana industry expo called the Cannabis Cup at a trade center north of downtown to 4/20-themed concerts at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater — acts include Slightly Stoopid and Snoop Dogg — to a massive festival at Civic Center Park, in the shadow of the state capitol.
The Civic Center Park event is the most visible sign of the pot holiday's transformation. It started as a defiant gathering of marijuana activists, but this year the event has an official city permit, is organized by an events management company and featured booths selling funnel cakes and Greek food next to kiosks hawking hemp lollipops and glass pipes.
A crowd in the thousands still blew a cloud of smoke into the air in the middle of the park at 4:20 p.m. Mountain Time.
But not everyone was celebrating.
"The voters agreed, yet they said you need to do it in private and not in public and I would say the park in front of our state capitol is about as public as you can get," said Rachel O'Bryan with SMART Colorado, a group devoted to keeping marijuana away from children.
O'Bryan said festivals celebrating marijuana culture send a dangerous message to children.
"The weekend's activities glorify and celebrate getting high," she said. "And we're concerned what that message sends to our children."
Denver was just one of many cities across the country where 4/20 marijuana celebrations were planned Sunday.
In Trenton, N.J., speakers urged a crowd of about 150 gathered at the statehouse to push state and federal lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize marijuana and called on Gov. Chris Christie to do what he can to help medical marijuana patients.
In San Francisco, Police Chief Greg Suhr said his officers would be cracking down on illegal parking, camping, drug sales, underage drinking and open alcohol containers at Golden Gate Park's Hippie Hill. Officials don't want the unofficial pot holiday to disrupt Easter Sunday activities in the park.
In Washington, thousands celebrated in the only other state to legalize marijuana. Events included a Snoop Dogg show Saturday night as well as an event sponsored by Seattle's Dope Magazine, with a $99 "judge's pass" available that included 10 marijuana samples.
Back in Denver, Corey Barron, a parent in the crowd at the rally, brought her young son to the event. She said she's seen the benefit of medical marijuana from news reports and doesn't feel her son should be sheltered from it.
"Kids grow up to make their own choice," she said. "People smoke cigarettes and that's addictive too, and that's even worse."
While the weekend was for celebrating, recent events have brought serious scrutiny to Colorado's experiment with legalizing marijuana. Denver police say a man ate marijuana-infused candy before shooting and killing his wife Monday, an attack dispatchers heard during a 911 call the woman had placed. Her death followed that of a college student who traveled to Colorado with friends from Wyoming for spring break, ate more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie, and jumped to his death from a hotel balcony in Denver. State lawmakers are debating how to increase safety regulations.
Plenty of participants didn't wait until 4/20 proper to light up despite public consumption of marijuana remaining illegal. On Saturday, Jairin Genung, 25, of Aurora, Colo., sat on the grass with friends, including one who was carefully rolling a thick joint.
"We're going to light up no matter what," Genung said. "If you can't smoke at the 4/20 rally, it just doesn't make sense."
The whole scene was wonderfully surreal for Bud Long, 49, from Kalamazoo, Mich., who recalled taking part in his first 4/20 protest in 1984.
"Nationwide, it'll be decriminalized," he predicted, "and we'll be doing this in every state."
Contributing: The Associated Press