Rant & Rave: Supermax Conditions and 420 Chaos

April 26 2013, 9:14 AM

Rant: 420 Advocates Need to Behave Like the Grown-Ups They Claim To Be

It's been a rough week for legalized marijuana. First, Denver's annual 4/20 celebration narrowly averted tragedy when gunfire erupted in the packed Civic Center park. Three people were wounded, none of them seriously, in what law enforecement is investigating as a gang-related incident. Not only could the gunshot wounds have been more grave, but the panic that ensued—so soon after the Boston Marathon bombings—could easily have become a lethal stampede.

A few days later, it emerged that the High Times magazine Cannabis Cup—a trade show/competition for marijuana producers and activists—had left the area around the EXDO Center utterly trashed. (P.S. The story came out on Earth Day.) And a few days after that, news arrived that the organizers of the Civic Center event skirted the normal permitting fees by classifying 4/20 not as a festival but as a political gathering. This enabled them to avoid paying (a mere) $4,000 per day by hiding behind the First Amendment. (After the Saturday shootings, 4/20 organizers cancelled their plans to continue the gathering on Sunday.)

When Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 last fall, it was a triumphant milestone for freedom-loving, responsible adults. Just like any other gold rush, the momentum around legalized weed is bound to attract some weasels and lowlifes. But the indefensible behavior we've witnessed in the past week threatens to undermine this new era before it even gets started. It's up to those at the forefront of the movement to get the word out and curb these juvenile, boorish impulses before they ruin the fun for everyone.

Rave: Supermax Prison Can't Dodge Further Scrutiny

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch decided not to dismiss a lawsuit against Colorado's Supermax prison. It alleges that officials at the facility have allowed myriad abuse and neglect of the prison's mentally ill population. The suit says that inmates' Eighth Amedment rights against cruel and unusual punishment have been violated, and the judge's decision will, for now, allow the case to continue.

This is a welcome development for anyone who truly cares about justice. Thanks to a decades-long binge of building and filling prisons, the United States is now facing a full-blown crisis. Our chronic cultural impulse to lock 'em all up has ignored the long-term ramifications of such rigid policies, and they can't be shunned anymore. Lawsuits such as these, regardless of their eventual outcome, help cast a revealing glare on our profoundly dysfunctional penal system. Let's hope even further scrutiny is on the way.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

—Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.