Pubdate: Thu, 12 Apr 2012
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Boulder Weekly
Author: Amanda Mountinho


Every year during April, the University of Colorado administration 
warns students about the potential consequences surrounding the 
annual 4/20 gathering on Norlin Quad. This year, the university is 
upping its efforts to end the unwelcome smoke-out. But it remains to 
be seen how far administrators and police are willing to go, or if 
their measures will eliminate the event.

In previous years, CU has tried methods such as turning on the 
sprinklers or asking students to identify their peers in photos taken 
at the event. But most often, CU has just monitored the gathering for 
safety and wasn't concerned with major ticketing. With this year's 
event, the university has rolled out several new courses of action to 
discourage attendance.

"It's not going to be a 'crackdown' - that's not the word I would 
use," says CU spokesperson Bronson Hilliard. "We're pushing for more 
enforcement because we don't want this event on our campus. It 
happens in the academic heart of the campus where research and 
teaching are going on, and that's not an appropriate place for this 
to take place."

Last year, the University of Colorado Police Department (CUPD) issued 
23 tickets and made five arrests, most of which were 
marijuana-related, says CUPD spokesperson Ryan Huff. This year the 
CUPD is bringing in more police and issuing more tickets, he adds.

Possessing two ounces or less of marijuana is a class two petty 
offense punishable by a fine of $100, says Jeff Gard, an attorney at 
Gard & Bond LLC. That is also the punishment for consumption of 
marijuana and possessing any drug paraphernalia, including pipes.

The conviction goes on a person's record and can be a game-changer 
for future employment, Gard says. Students could also face penalties 
with the campus Office of Student Conduct. The punishments would vary 
for each individual, but those who have had several other offenses 
with the university could face suspension.

In accordance with the federal Clery Act, the university will also 
post the names of those ticketed on the CU-Boulder police website's 
daily crime log.

Another way the university is deterring people is by stressing the 
likelihood of high traffic along the Broadway Street construction 
area and limited parking for guests. The measures are meant to 
dissuade people from coming to campus. By making it hard for people 
to attend the event, Hilliard says, he hopes people won't show up.

"We're not trying to give people something to grind against, we're 
trying to say, 'Don't come to CU-Boulder to do this,'" Hilliard says. 
"'It's not going to be worth your time, it's not going to be fun,' 
that's the message we're trying to send."

CUPD will also be partnering with regional agencies, including the 
Colorado State Patrol, which will monitor U.S. 36, Hwy. 93, and the 
Diagonal Highway to check for people driving under the influence of 
drugs or alcohol. Plus, the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical 
Marijuana Enforcement Division will be on hand to make sure medical 
marijuana centers don't violate their license regulations, and the 
Department of Health will screen all of those ticketed and arrested 
to see if there's a need to revoke medical marijuana cards, if the 
person was caught smoking in public.

To provide alternative options for students, CU Student Government 
(CUSG) and Program Council are co-sponsoring a free concert with 
rapper Wyclef Jean. The concert runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., but doors 
close at 4 p.m. to keep out people coming from the Norlin gathering.

With the exception of the concert, Huff says that this protocol is 
not that different from any other 4/20 event. Last year's security 
for the event cost more than $50,000, and even though he can't 
pinpoint this year's sum, he says it will be more, based on the extra 
officers they're bringing in.

Huff wouldn't say how many police officers will be there or what 
tactics they will use to prevent the smoke-out, but he says that CUPD 
is going to avoid violence.

"We are not looking for confrontation," Huff says.

"We're looking to work with the community on this event, but we are 
going to be clear in enforcing the laws."

What could go wrong?

While Huff won't say how many extra police they're using, he did say 
that anyone who is on campus will notice a difference from previous years.

Hilliard recognizes the potential for extra police enforcement to end 
badly, but says he's not worried.

"There's always risks and downsides to any course of action that any 
institution takes against anything popular," Hilliard says.

A single confrontation between one protester and one officer has the 
potential of rippling into the crowd, causing mass chaos. In 
sociology, the term is deinviduation, the concept of people in a 
large group forgetting their self-awareness, causing individuals to 
lose their inhibitions and go along with the crowd.

Some experts are skeptical of the phenomena, like Tom Stafford and 
Matt Webb, who wrote the 2004 book Mind Hacks. The duo writes about 
riot psychology and explains the dynamics of the "Elaborated Social 
Identity Model."

"People don't become irrational, and they do keep thinking for 
themselves, but that doesn't mean that the influence of the crowd has 
no effect," Webb and Stafford write. "In terms of policing, one of 
the clearest effects to emerge from studies of riots and crowd 
control is that an indiscriminate kicking from riot police can 
massively increase the number of people in the crowd who become 
violent. This is probably because the social identity of people in a 
group is fluid and changes according to the relationship with other groups."

They argue that if roused, a group can work together to fight for a 
common goal. The consequence becomes an "us vs. them" mentality, 
which can result in disastrous effects.

Senior CU student Patrick Mullholland is familiar with the idea, 
calling it mob mentality, and he's curious to see what will happen on 
4/20. Because of the increased security, Mullholland is planning to 
get some pictures if anything bad happens.

"That's why I'm going with my camera," he says. "I can see some 
unreasonable people arguing for their right to civil disobedience - 
making the situation bigger than it is - and then arguing with the 
cops and the situation getting out of hand."

With the uncertainty around police numbers and the strategies they 
will use, it's unclear if the situation will turn violent, or if the 
4/20 gathering will proceed as it has previously.

Some students believe that even the added security won't rid the 
event from campus. CU sophomore Pearl Shyr doesn't support 4/20 and 
applauds the university's efforts, but says she is skeptical that the 
higher enforcement will be effective.

"It's been here for so long, and it's so big. There's only so much 
that CU can do," Shyr says. "There's only so many cops that can be on 
campus, and I think the crowd will outnumber them. This year it won't 
happen, but they're taking the first steps to remove it."

Positive motivation

The idea for the free Wyclef Jean concert came about last year after 
students were surveyed about whether they had partaken in the 4/20 
gathering, says CUSG President Andrew Yoder. Depending on the 
question, the survey received between 3,500 and 3,800 responses.

Yoder says CUSG found out that a lot of CU students didn't 
participate. In a unanimous vote, CUSG created a resolution to try to 
remove the event from campus. After brainstorming some ways to 
distract students from the Norlin crowd, Yoder came up with the idea 
for a concert.

"You've heard the ways to motivate people - you can use a carrot or a 
stick, a treat or a punishment," Yoder says. "The administration 
always uses punishments, saying, 'Don't come, you'll get tickets.' 
But we haven't given [the students] any other opportunities or options."

CUSG partnered with Program Council, which selected Jean, a rapper 
who has supported legalization of marijuana and whose lyrics 
reference the drug in songs like "Something about Mary." The overall 
concert will cost $150,000.

"The idea was to pull in an artist that was big enough that they 
would have name recognition," Yoder says. "And would be a good enough 
incentive for students to go elsewhere and see the concert."

Senior CU psychology major Danny Sanfilippo believes the concert is 
just a way to bribe students away from protest.

"I think having a concert to prevent people from attending 4/20 is 
stupid," Sanfilippo says. "[4/20] is about people speaking their 
voice. People are smoking in public to show that they support the 
legalization of marijuana. It's nonviolent and peaceful."

Protecting an image

Hilliard and Huff both say the ultimate goal of ending the event will 
be a multi-year effort. Yoder hopes ridding 4/20 from campus will 
reclaim CU's reputation.

"It's an image thing. There's a year-round image that we can't shake. 
While it only happens one day, it stays with us all year," Yoder 
says. "Those are big motivations. You got to ask how many students 
are not considering coming to CU because of this reputation." As far 
as dollars and cents, Hilliard says he hasn't heard of donors or 
lawmakers pulling funding based on 4/20, but he knows the event 
reflects negatively on the CU campus. His main concerns are the size 
and negative representation of the school.

"We're not making a statement about drug policy or drug laws, we're 
making a statement about a gigantic party in the middle of campus 
that we can't afford to have anymore," Hilliard says. "People think 
there's some secret reason that we don't like 4/20, but we've been 
really honest and open about the reasons. One, it's hugely disruptive 
to the campus. Number two is it sends a message about our student 
body or our campus that amounts to a stereotype. People do not spend 
all of their time at CU getting high."

Along with the annual email the administrators sent to students, this 
year the university sent an email to parents, asking for their 
support of ending this unwanted event.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) 
Executive Director Allen St. Pierre says 4/20 is important for 
students because it allows them to speak out against laws that they 
disagree with. He says that young people are the ones mostly affected 
by these laws, and that of the 850,000 marijuana-related arrests each 
year, almost half of those arrested are between the ages of 15 and 25.

St. Pierre supports the protests, having attended CU's gathering 
several years in the past, and says he doesn't understand why the 
administration believes it reflects negatively upon CU.

"Some of these administrators increasingly over the years keep citing 
CU's stellar reputation and stellar academics. OK, all that might be 
true, but none of that is divorced from the fact that students have 
been coming out to support the lamenting of this law," St. Pierre 
says. "And if the University of Colorado is a stellar university, 
that enjoys a reputation, it didn't get sullied in the last year or 
two. It's hard to imagine what they're concerned about, because in 
1995 [4/20] didn't ruin the school, in 2000 it didn't ruin the 
school, and in 2010 its reputation didn't get ruined."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom