Cracking down on 4/20

University of Colorado administrators and student leaders on Tuesday announced new efforts to stop the annual 4/20 marijuana smoke-out on the Boulder campus. They include:

1. Ticketing those caught smoking pot in public, which can result in a $100 fine

2. Deploying a large number of police officers from CU and "regional agencies," including Colorado State Patrol enforcement on U.S. 36 and state licensing enforcement at Boulder dispensaries

3. Enforcing parking regulations on campus and in adjacent neighborhoods

4. Reminding students that their names will be posted online if they're ticketed on 4/20

5. Advising faculty not to cancel or curtail classes on 4/20

6. Enforcing the ban on selling food, merchandize or medical marijuana on campus

7. Asking the public to avoid the Boulder campus on 4/20 and to expect traffic jams along Broadway

The University of Colorado announced a new plan Tuesday to snuff out the Boulder campus's 4/20 smoke-out, warning that police will ticket pot smokers at this month's event -- a more aggressive enforcement tactic than in years past, when officers mostly monitored the crowd for safety reasons.

CU officials -- who, for the first time, have the support of student leaders in their bid to end the unsanctioned April 20 event -- warned that attendees will face $100 fines if caught smoking pot in public while students could see additional sanctions from CU's Office of Student Conduct. Those with medical marijuana registry cards also risk having them revoked upon conviction, CU leaders said.

"It needs to end," Chancellor Phil DiStefano said of 4/20 in a statement released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in an effort to keep students away from Norlin Quad during the smoke-out, student organizers will spend $150,000 to host a free, students-only hip-hop concert featuring onetime Haitian presidential candidate Wyclef Jean, who has promoted marijuana legalization in the past, and referenced pot in song and on stage.

The concert, from 2 to 6 p.m. across campus at the Coors Events Center, will close its doors at 4 p.m., ensuring those inside can't light up on Norlin at 4:20 p.m.

"We are asking students to support us in the effort to protect the reputation of our institution -- and do it by attending a great free concert," Carly Robinson, the CU Student Government's vice president for internal affairs, said in a statement.

Long the bane of campus administrators, CU's 4/20 gathering has grown to be the largest in the country on a college campus, prompting Playboy magazine to crown CU-Boulder the nation's top party school and drawing "Reefer Madness" rankings from Princeton Review.

Last year's 4/20 drew an estimated 10,000 revelers to campus, yet police only ticketed about 30 people -- mostly on marijuana charges, and many for lighting up before the actual 4:20 p.m. mass smoke-out. In years past, CU officials have tried a variety of ultimately unsuccessful tactics to discourage 4/20 pot smokers, including turning on campus sprinklers, putting down fresh fertilizer that smelled like fish, and snapping photos of offenders and posting them online.

On Tuesday, CU police spokesman Ryan Huff said authorities won't reveal their tactics in advance of this year's event, but promised that attendees will notice an increased police presence on campus.

Damaged reputation

Brooks Kanski, the CU Student Government's vice president for external affairs, said the event damages the university's reputation. Online searches of "CU-Boulder" pop up images or videos of 4/20 and questions about the event plague CU graduates in job interviews.

Kanski said that when the student government held a forum on 4/20 earlier this school year, a CU senior -- clad in a suit and tie, having just come from a job interview -- testified that his potential employer said, "We see on your resume you're from the University of Colorado. Is taking a drug test going to be a problem?"

A 4/20 reveler receives a ticket from a Boulder police officer during last year s event on the Boulder campus. In 2011, an estimated 10,000 people gathered
A 4/20 reveler receives a ticket from a Boulder police officer during last year s event on the Boulder campus. In 2011, an estimated 10,000 people gathered to smoke marijuana at CU, but police only issued about 30 tickets. This year, they re promising increased enforcement in an effort to quash the smoke-out. ( MARTY CAIVANO )

"That's the last thing we want to be reflected on our students," Kanski said. "We really do feel that this is at the heart of CU's party school reputation."

Yet Matt Warnstedt, 25, of Gunbarrel, said he's attended 4/20 on five occasions, and the threat of tickets this year won't deter him.

"It started out as something to do with my fellow smoking friends and it has since evolved into a non-violent protest," he said. "It's really a protest over how ridiculous this prohibition is."

Disrupting the campus

About a quarter of students surveyed by CU last year said they joined the crowd on Norlin Quad and either smoked pot or ate food containing pot. About 11 percent joined the crowd, but didn't consume marijuana. Campus survey results also revealed that the 4/20 smoke-out is a magnet mostly for curious freshmen, tends to draw out-of-state students and is mistaken by half of those polled as a "sponsored" university event.

Campus officials have complained that amid tough economic times, the event costs the school $50,000 annually, including money spent on event staff to close off parking and make sure revelers aren't wandering into classrooms.

"This imposition on the campus significantly disrupts the university's operations -- including teaching, learning and research. It threatens the health and safety of our employees, imposes logistical challenges and expenses, and unfairly taints the reputation of CU-Boulder and the dedicated faculty, staff, students and alumni who are a part of this great institution," DiStefano said.

CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the university isn't taking a stance on marijuana legalization, and its primary concern is how large the gathering has become.

"I wouldn't want 10,000 people blowing bubbles at the center of campus," Hilliard said. "Are we thrilled they're smoking marijuana? No. But the issue of marijuana is secondary. The issue is the crowd has gotten way too big."

Hilliard said the event makes it difficult for people to get to classes and the crowds and noise causes a disruption for CU's classrooms and research labs.

Other enforcement

The university will again limit parking, making it tough for the public to get to the quad for the 4/20 event. The school also has partnered with the Colorado State Patrol, which will increase its patrols on U.S. 36, Colo. 93 and the Diagonal Highway -- looking for drivers who appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Also, the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division will have a team of officers deployed on campus and throughout Boulder monitoring medical marijuana centers to make sure they're complying with regulations.

CU officials on Tuesday also advised faculty not to cancel classes on 4/20 and reminded students that the federal Clery Act requires the university to maintain a publicly accessible crime log, and those ticketed for marijuana at 4/20 will have their names posted on that log.

Guiliana Ranallo, a freshman economics major from Minnesota, said that before coming to CU, she had seen YouTube videos about the smoke-out. It's piqued her curiosity.

"I'll likely be celebrating on the quad that day," she said.

Freshman Karlyn Seidnek said she'll gauge how heavy-handed the police are before she decides whether she'll watch the smoke-out from the sidelines or partake.

Alana Downing was on a campus tour last year during 4/20, and she said that she witnessed how big of a distraction it is to the university.

"I think it's ridiculous," she said. "I'm glad they're trying to move it off campus this year."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.