If you go

What: Cannabis Symposium

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday

Where: University Memorial Center, University of Colorado campus, various rooms

Cost: Free

Full list of events: on.fb.me/1mrj1Fq

University of Colorado student leaders are preparing for the Cannabis Symposium on Wednesday, a first-year event intended to "repurpose" the once-annual 4/20 pot smokeout on the Boulder campus.

The symposium begins at 11 a.m. at the University Memorial Center with a brief introduction before sending attendees to various panels and talks.

Guest speakers include Susan Squibb, the weekly marijuana advice columnist for the Denver Post and a "cannabis maven," Jason Lauve, founder of Hemp Cleans and Nolan Kane, a CU assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology.

The panels and talks include discussions on the mapping of the cannabis genome, the health effects of cannabis, the war on drugs, how to start a cannabis business and the social science of cannabis.

University officials in February announced that they would close the campus for a third consecutive year to curtail any potential 4/20 gathering. After attendance dwindled to just several hundred in 2012, the smokeout that once drew 10,000 people was effectively killed last year.

From noon to 6 p.m. April 20, CU faculty members, students and staff members are required to show their Buff OneCards, or CU identification cards, to enter the campus. Visitors with official business are required to obtain a visitor's pass.

"It is imperative that the public knows we are serious about eliminating this disruptive gathering," Chancellor Phil DiStefano wrote in a letter to the campus. "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."

Boulder County sheriff’s deputies Geno Martinez, left, and Rik Hendrikson stand watch on a quiet University of Colorado campus during 4/20 last year.
Boulder County sheriff's deputies Geno Martinez, left, and Rik Hendrikson stand watch on a quiet University of Colorado campus during 4/20 last year. (Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera)

CU officials have supported the symposium, saying it encourages academic debate and discussion.

Turn protest into something 'constructive'

Representatives from the CU Student Government 4/20 Commission, the event's organizers, said they wanted to redirect the energy and attention given to the smokeout in past years to a new academic discussion of cannabis culture.

"Students have been protesting on Norlin Quad for a very long time, so we wanted to turn that protest into something that's very constructive and very manageable," said Neelah Ali, a fifth-year senior working with the CU Student Government on the event.

Organizers, who are piloting the symposium this year, said they hope to host the event on April 20 in future years. Ali said the event is funded by the CU Student Government, and is expected to cost between $200 and $300, which has mostly gone toward advertising and promotional materials.

In 2012, the CU Student Government hosted an October event with a similar mission, though it focused mostly on the health concerns and benefits of marijuana and marijuana policy.

Tyler Williams, one of the symposium's co-organizers, also works with the CU-Boulder chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a student group that's hosting a talk called "War on Drugs."

Williams said the talk will describe how much work still needs to be done, even though recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado, to reform drug policy.

"It creates more disparity between minorities and the people who are in power," said Williams, a senior studying psychology and entrepreneurship.

'I would be shocked' to see smoking

Luke Ramirez, founder of Cannabusiness School and Consulting and co-owner of Walking Raven, will speak about the economics of the cannabis industry and how students can serve the industry in a variety of jobs.

"It's really important to understand how the economics of the industry impacts their job opportunities, but also the local companies in their area," Ramirez said. "Anything from architect work to legal work to business degrees to information technology jobs. There are a lot of different skills needed in this industry."

Ramirez said the symposium is a "new chapter" for CU, which had been known nationally for its large annual gathering of tokers on the Norlin Quad.

He said the event's organizers are putting on a very professional and organized conference.

"I don't see anything that's associated with a marijuana leaf or Cheech and Chong or tie-dye or anything like that," he said. "It should be jam-packed with information. I love how they're taking a completely different angle on it.

"I would be shocked if there's any kind of smoking in the crowd at all. I don't anticipate that to be a part of the event."

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