University of Colorado student leaders are hoping to use their power to change the "party school reputation" by helping administration move the unofficial 4/20 smoke-out off campus.

About 8,000 to 10,000 participants convene at the Norlin Quadrangle -- the center of the CU-Boulder campus -- to light up for the annual marijuana celebration on April 20.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of participants are not CU students (university officials estimate only about 20 to 25 percent of the annual crowd attend CU), the annual pot party continues to contribute to the university's reputation.

CU-Boulder was named the country's top party school by Playboy in April and the school often tops "Reefer Madness" lists by the Princeton Review.

Carly Robinson, CU Student Government's vice president of internal affairs, said student leaders' stand against 4/20 echoes concerns from the administration, expressed through a mass e-mail to students in the spring.

Deb Coffin, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said this is the first student government to step up to the 4/20 politics in the six years she has worked with student leaders.

Revelers light up at the 4/20 smoke-out on the CU campus in Boulder last April 20.
Revelers light up at the 4/20 smoke-out on the CU campus in Boulder last April 20. (MARTY CAIVANO)

"The others chose not to take a stand either way," Coffin said.

Though the student government does not have a specific place it would like to see the celebration move, Robinson said she didn't understand why participants don't rally at Denver's capitol, where they can lobby to legislators who could potentially change the law.

An April 20 rally at Denver's Civic Center Park attracted a crowd similar to CU's .

"We've had this party-school image for many years and a lot of it has to do with 4/20," Robinson said. "It has a negative effect on your degree."

CU senior Matthew Jenks said being labeled a party school could affect the value of some degrees, like his in film, but likely will not affect degrees in the sciences -- which are highly ranked nationally.

"I think that any self-respecting employer will ignore the party reputation of a school," Jenks said. "CU and the city of Boulder provide an atmosphere that is intellectually challenging in all fields of study, and a fun place to be, with tons of stuff to do.

"There is a reason that people tell you that 'College is the best years of your life'... and the employers know this."

Jenks said he would support the student government's motion to help move the party away from campus. He said so many participants aren't affiliated with CU, which makes the smoke-out a poor representation of the campus climate.

Student government executives continue to discuss ways to contribute to administrative efforts, but Robinson said there is not currently a plan to bring the debate to students.

"We want to hear from students on both sides of this," Robinson said. "The more information we have, the better."

CU police Cmdr. Tim McGraw said he hopes getting student leaders involved will help demonstrate that the celebration is "not welcome on campus."

In previous years CU has used various tactics to try discouraging the celebration, including turning on lawn sprinklers, posting photographs and names of people smoking marijuana online and fencing off Farrand Field (where the celebration was held before it moved to the Norlin Quad).

"Hopefully this will help resonate and help get the word out that there are lots of reasons, besides just being unlawful, that this is bad," McGraw said.

About 33 marijuana-related tickets were given during 4/20 this year, mostly to those smoking before the afternoon gathering, he said.