Denver's 420 Marijuana Festival Reportedly Creates Tourism Windfall
There are a lot of explanations for the stoner term, “420.” Some people say it represents 4:20 p.m., the time immediately after classes when a group of California high school students in the 1970s used to gather to get high.
Whatever its origins, 420 has entered the U.S. lexicon as a reference, or code word, for marijuana. At the same time, 420, or April 20, has become the date for cannabis celebrations across the country. And in Denver this upcoming Sunday, April 20 is filled with both cultural and economic significance.
On January 1, Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and organizers of the city's annual 420 festival are expecting tens of thousands of visitors to the weekend event. "Our event costs more than J. Lo's wedding," one organizer told the Denver Post. "And we have more guests."
Security is expected to be tight – several people were shot and wounded during last year's 420. Meanwhile, public smoking of marijuana remains illegal in Colorado and police say they plan to enforce the laws, at their own discretion.
At the same time, cannabis tourism has apparently created a nice little windfall for Denver hotels. Hotels.com reports Denver saw a 25 percent increase in hotel searches for the first three months of this year, compared to 2013. Hotel searches in Denver for this upcoming weekend, meanwhile, have reportedly jumped by 73 percent, compared to the same time period last year.
Marijuana advocates say the Hotels.com data is just an acknowledgement of the obvious – that cannabis tourism has become increasingly popular.
"It's worth noting that the Denver and Colorado's tourism agencies have themselves been reluctant to tout the state's historic marijuana law as a reason for outsiders to visit,” Tom Angell, founder and chairman of the cannabis policy group Marijuana Majority told Westword, Denver's weekly alternative news magazine.
"If they were more savvy, we'd likely see even more increased interest," he added, "and the economic benefits that come with it -- in Colorado as a vacation destination.”
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