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CU-Boulder to close campus on 4/20 for third straight year

By Sarah Kuta, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 28--For the third year in a row, the University of Colorado plans to close its Boulder campus on April 20 to curtail an "unwanted 4/20 gathering," according to a statement released Friday morning by Chancellor Phil DiStefano.

In recent years, campus officials have been trying to extinguish the annual pot smokeout, which at its height drew some 10,000 tokers to Norlin Quadrangle, by closing the campus to outsiders, spreading fishy smelling fertilizer on the quad and enforcing marijuana laws.

From noon to 6 p.m. on April 20, CU faculty, students and staff are required to show their Buff OneCards, or CU identification cards, to enter the campus, DiStefano wrote.

Visitors with official business are required to obtain a visitor's pass to enter the campus.

"(A 4/20 gathering) has no business on our campus," said CU spokesman Ryan Huff. "It's very disruptive from a standpoint of noise and smoke and just the sheer number of people. Also it can be a dangerous event when you have that many people confined in a small area to get medical attention to and things like that. That's why we're doing this for a third year."

This is the first 4/20 after recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1. However, campus officials note that consuming marijuana in public or by people who are under 21 is still illegal. Smoking is banned on the Boulder campus.

After closing the campus on 4/20 in 2013, the CU administration appeared to have succeeded in snuffing out the gathering, as Norlin Quad was quiet.

In his letter, DiStefano defended the decision to close the campus yet again to reinforce the university's commitment to curbing the 4/20 gathering.

"You may ask why this move is necessary after two successful years of curtailing the large 4/20 crowd," DiStefano wrote. "It is imperative that the public knows we are serious about eliminating this disruptive gathering. I hope at some point in the near-future that campus closures will not be necessary, and we can go about daily business on campus as we normally do."

Huff echoed DiStefano's letter to the campus, saying that it's difficult to stop the momentum of a gathering in "just a year or two."

The university spent $107,794 to close the campus in 2013, which includes the cost of having extra CU police and other "agencies" on hand, Huff said. Funds used to suppress the annual gathering come from insurance rebates.

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"In recent years, CU-Boulder has received rebates from our self-insurance trust because our experience of claims and hazards was less than what was projected," Huff said. "The rebates result from our actions to reduce liability and hazards. We can reinvest those funds in operations that further reduce liability."

Last month, CU student government leaders described plans to hold a marijuana conference or symposium later this spring to "repurpose" 4/20.

Student leaders haven't set a date for their proposed alternative event, but Huff said the administration welcomes any academic discussion of drug policy.

"We certainly support the free exchange of ideas and having that kind of dialogue," he said. "That's always been welcomed. What hasn't been welcomed are the thousands of people who come on our campus to be disruptive."

News this week that Denver city leaders may not issue a permit for the use of Civic Center Park on April 20 did not worry Huff.

Last year, with CU's Norlin Quad shut down, thousands of people flocked instead to Denver. Huff said what CU decides about 4/20 does not change based on whether people have somewhere else to go on April 20.

"What happens in Denver has no impact on our plans," he said. "These have been our plans the last couple years, so whether an event goes on in Denver or not, our campus is closed on April 20 to non-affiliates."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kutas@dailycamera.com

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(c)2014 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

Visit the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) at www.dailycamera.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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