Denverites have a longstanding tradition of taking 24-hour holidays that offer the slightest excuse to drink—including Halloween, New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Rockies Opening Day, and many others—and stretching them out for as long as possible. So why should 4/20 be any different?

This year the sacred day of weed falls on a Sunday. (In 2014, it happens to coincide with another hallowed celebration known as Easter.) As such, we locals will be “treated” to multiple days of celebrations, concerts, rallies, and toke-a-thons, which will culminate in the weekend-long festival in Civic Center Park.

As outspoken an advocate as I’ve been for legalized marijuana, I always view this time of year with a little dread. Yes, I believe that marijuana should be legal everywhere for adults, that it’s far less harmful than alcohol, and that American drug policy sorely needs an overhaul. But I don’t want to hang around the likes of this any more than you do. In fact, the only reason I’ll be within three miles of the Civic Center this weekend is because my home is only 2.5 miles away.

Rallies such as these tend to bring out the grungier elements of the legalization movement, and their antics can often turn off the general public to the nobler and more responsible elements of the cause. And of course, the shooting that injured three people at last year’s event is the sort of thing that, if repeated, could turn public opinion back against marijuana.

Among the organizations that will try to bring a sense of responsibility to this weekend’s gathering is Leafly, the Seattle-based resource for information about the benefits, qualities, and risks of cannabis consumption. Leafly will have a booth at the Civic Center, but it will look a lot more like a technology trade show installation than a hippie outpost. The group’s repesentatives hail from places like Microsoft and T-Mobile, and they’ll be there to educate attendees about all aspects of the drug. “We’re trying to elevate the conversation and bring more mainstream appeal to the brand,” says Leafly director of marketing Nathan Peterson. “To take it to that next level we have to get beyond the current industry norms.”

With attitudes about marijuana evolving nationwide, this year’s 4/20 events may be the most crucial in the movement’s history in terms of maintaining momentum. We’re all familiar with the way alcohol commercials warn us to drink responsibly; we have the same obligation vis-a-vis marijuana consumption. Hopefully these initial post-legalization events will reflect the maturity about this issue that we’ve so far learned and earned.

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

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.