CU studies how other schools deal with 4/20

The University of Colorado, as it tries to find ways to end the annual and unsanctioned smoke-out on campus, has turned to other universities that are also plagued with large gatherings on 4/20.

And while CU officials and student leaders say there are lessons to be learned from how other schools handle 4/20 events, they also point out that CU has a distinctive set of challenges.

At the University of California-Santa Cruz, campus officials ban students in the dorms from housing overnight guests during the week of 4/20 — a tactic to keep outside revelers from participating in a smoke-out. In past years, 7,000 people have flocked to a campus meadow to smoke pot on 4/20. Officials at UC-Santa Cruz have also closed off campus roads, set up tow-away zones and ticketed cars that get near the area where the unsanctioned event happens. They’ve also called for backup police enforcement from other UC campuses.

But CU-Boulder’s event is unique: It’s the largest gathering, according to Jeanne Krier, publisher of the Princeton Review. The college guidebook has consistently crowned CU-Boulder as one of its most pot-friendly schools.

Bronson Hilliard, CU-Boulder spokesman, said that the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Boulder compounds the 4/20 problem for administrators and student leaders who are looking to end the annual event that has drawn more than 10,000 revelers to campus in past years.

“We’ve looked at what other schools are doing, but we keep coming back to ‘ours is bigger than theirs,'” Hilliard said. “The lessons are helpful on a certain level, but we have a unique culture here.”

Other colleges across the country with smaller gatherings have had strict ticketing policies and sent emails to parents suggesting that they ask their children what they’ll be doing on 4/20.

On Thursday, CU’s Student Government voted unanimously to pass a resolution that supports moving the annual 4/20 smoke-out off campus, though student leaders did not outline a plan for ending the event. The CU administration has also not discussed details of how the school might try to quash the smoke-out.

“We have looked at other schools, but our situation in Boulder is unique. Thus we are having to be unique in our ideas,” said Brooks Kanski, the student government’s vice president of external affairs.

At the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus, officials don’t take a hard stance against 4/20 smoke-outs, which are more scattered throughout the campus, said senior Erika Martin, news editor for the Daily Nexus student newspaper.

Like CU, the Santa Barbara campus has landed on the Princeton Review’s “Reefer Madness” and party-school lists.

But concerns over marijuana smoking pale in comparison to worries surrounding the annual “Floattopia” event, which involves heavy drinking and floating on rafts in the nearby ocean, she said. Campus officials in Santa Barbara have been focused on squelching that springtime event because of the safety and environmental problems it poses, Martin said.

Dozens of people who have participated in the event have been treated for head injuries because of accidents on nearby cliffs, and officials have scolded students for peeing in the ocean, destroying vegetation on the cliffs and littering the shoreline with broken glass and garbage.

Martin said that students have received messages from administrators asking them to no longer participate in the Floattopia event, but mum’s the word surrounding 4/20.

“It doesn’t really disrupt anything and it hasn’t solicited a system-wide response,” she said.

CU officials in past years have tinkered with strategies to end 4/20, including turning sprinklers on pot-smokers and using a fishy smelling fertilizer on the ground. They’ve also sent students into the crowd to take pictures of pot-smokers and post them online. CU then paid people who could identify the photos.

Dylan DiSalvio — a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark, a private college in Portland — editorialized about his school’s heavy-handed crackdown on 4/20 smoke-outs.

Three years ago, he said, the school turned a blind eye to the smoke-out when about 100 people gathered near a flagpole to smoke marijuana. The next year, about 200 people showed up — and were surprised to be met by campus officials who confiscated their marijuana and drug paraphernalia, DiSalvio said. And the next year, the school upped the enforcement again by bringing in police officers from the city for the event and putting up yellow crime-scene tape to block off the area near the flagpole.

“It was draconian,” he said. “It definitely seemed to be a step in the wrong direction.”