(AP) – The pungent smell of pot that blankets a popular quadrangle at the University of Colorado-Boulder every April 20 was replaced by the stench of fish-based fertilizer Friday as administrators tried to stamp out one of the nation’s largest annual campus celebrations of marijuana.
After more than 10,000 people – students and non-students – attended last year’s marijuana rally on Norlin Quadrangle, university officials this year applied the stinky fertilizer to the quad to deter pot-smokers.
They also closed the campus Friday to all unauthorized visitors and were offering a free campus concert by Haitian-born hip-hop star Wyclef Jean timed to coincide with the traditional 4:20 p.m. pot gathering. His contract bars him from making any direct references to marijuana, other drugs or to 4/20.
The measures pit Colorado’s flagship university, which has tired of its reputation as a top party school, against thousands who have assembled, flash mob-style, each year to demand marijuana’s legalization or simply to have a good time.
With more than 30,000 students, Colorado was named the nation’s top party school in 2011 by Playboy magazine. The campus also repeatedly ranks among the top schools for marijuana use, according to a “Reefer Madness” list conducted by The Princeton Review.
The number 420 has been associated with marijuana use for decades, though its origins are murky. Its use as code for marijuana spread among California pot users in the 1960s and spread nationwide among followers of the Grateful Dead.
Like most counterculture slang, theories abound on its origin. Some say it was once police code in Southern California to denote marijuana use (probably an urban legend). It was a title number for a 2003 California bill about medical marijuana, an irony fully intended.
Others trace it to a group of California teenagers who would meet at 4:20 p.m. to search for weed (a theory as elusive as the outdoor cannabis crop they were seeking). Yet the code stuck for obvious reasons: Authorities and nosy parents didn’t know what it meant.
In Colorado, several high schools across the state are hosting drug-free events on Friday. The University of Colorado’s student government supports the university’s anti-4/20 actions this year. And other Colorado students created a Facebook campaign urging their colleagues to wear formal clothing to school on Friday to repudiate the party-school reputation.
Off campus, Boulder police could also issue tickets for people smoking pot, and the Colorado State Patrol will be watching for any motorists under the influence, Huff said.
“This is not about the war on drugs. It isn’t even about marijuana per se,” insisted a university spokesman. “Ten thousand to 12,000 (people) doing anything in the academic heart of the campus would be a problem.”