APThis weekend was 4/20, which is basically Christmas for users of marijuana.
The largest celebration took place in Denver, where a massive pot convention — including the Cannabis Cup contest — was interrupted by a shooting that wounded two and sent shock waves through the marijuana movement.
Remember that Colorado recently voted to legalize marijuana.
Barry Bard, an editor for WeedMaps.com – a startup that is among the first to capitalize on legalized and medical marijuana — spoke to us about the event. The WeedMaps team was at the Exdo Center, where the Cannabis Cup was being held. At the same time, they had a separate camera crew near the Civic Center. Here's what they heard:
"I was told it was like a wave of people rushing around after 5 shots were heard," Bard said in an email to Business Insider. "It was gang related and a 19 year old, I believe.
So while the shooting wasn't related to marijuana, the main event, or Denver's legalization of pot, it still will have significant downsides for the pro-pot movement.
As we've argued, the future success of marijuana in the United States is predicated on the success of the dual experiments going on in Colorado — specifically Denver — and Washington.
Attorney General Eric Holder is the man with the ability to either turn a blind eye or systematically crush the attempt to legalize marijuana in the states. During an Appropriations Committee hearing last week, Holder said that the Justice Department response would depend on "the impact on children" and violence related to organized crime.
Needless to say, a gang-related shooting in the vicinity of a major marijuana event can be construed as somewhat provocative for the Justice Department, even if the gunshots were altogether unrelated to the core ideas behind legalization.
Here's how Bard summed up the major downside for the drug reform movement from this shooting:
The shooting is obviously a blight on the movement, even though it was gang related and had nothing to do with cannabis whatsoever. It will be used by the mainstream media and opponents of legalization as ammo to perpetuate prohibition and negate the benefits of marijuana. It now makes our job as part of the movement to spread awareness and truth even more vital to the long term goal. One bad seed certainly shouldn't spoil what is generally a very peaceful and genial movement, but we'll see what its immediate impact is. I'd be shocked if Denver allows the Civic Center smokeout to occur again, though, that's for sure, and other rallies nationwide of its ilk may be affected. But who knows how opponents of legalization will spin it.
Ethan Nadelmann, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, had this to say about the shooting:
What can one say? Shootings are bad. DPA opposes all forms of violence. One significant benefit of legalizing marijuana, as with repealing alcohol Prohibition [eighty] years ago, is taking the market out of the hands of those who might be more inclined to use violence to steal, extort or resolve disputes in the marijuana industry.
Is it the end of the world for marijuana reform? Probably not. But the pot legalization crowd really needs this to be a single, unrelated and unrepeated incident.
The success of legal marijuana in America is predicated on the success of two experiments. If one of those experiments begins to go wrong — and if this sort of violence isn't isolated — then it's quite bad.
Still, all evidence seems to point to the contrary here — a single isolated event that happened to take place in proximity of a major marijuana convention — so don't expect a crackdown or a slowdown any time soon.
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