Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hundreds turn in marijuana users in Boulder

Summit Daily News

Boulder (AP) - Hundreds of people called University of Colorado police Friday to name people photographed at last week’s “4/20” marijuana smoke-out on Farrand Field.

Police posted 150 pictures online Thursday of people lighting up, exhaling and even streaking at the annual event. For each positive identification, CU is offering a $50 reward.

Tipsters, who will remain anonymous to the offenders but not to police, began calling early Friday, said CU police Lt. Tim McGraw.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” he said. “One person called in and ID’d five people.”

Andrea Hansen, 19, was among the estimated 2,500 people who gathered at 4:20 p.m. April 20. When she heard about the online photos Thursday night, she visited the site immediately. The CU freshman said she was relieved to see she had succeeded in avoiding the cameras, but some of her peers weren’t so lucky.

“There are two pictures of my friend,” Hansen said. “She got all freaked out.”
If police can’t confirm that those identified in the pictures were puffing marijuana, they still can be ticketed for trespassing on the closed CU field, officials said.

A person must be charged and cited for tipsters to be rewarded.

Hansen said she was surprised to hear that hundreds of people had responded to the police department’s reward offer.

“But $50 is a sack,” she said, referring to the price of marijuana. “So there’s your incentive.”

A Boulder-based group that advocates marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol said Friday that CU’s attempt to punish the 4/20 revelers is “cowardly.” Mason Tvert, campaign director for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, said CU is treating pot-smoking students like “child molesters” by “sticking their photos online.”

“I think this is unbelievable,” he said. “They’re using money to turn this campus into a culture of informants. If they asked students to call in every time they saw a student drinking, it would be an incredible mess.”

Tvert said CU should be focusing its efforts on alcohol abuse and encouraged anyone pictured online to call his organization.

“I’m sure there will be lawyers and other people upset about this,” he said. “I don’t know what we can do for them, but we’re hoping for some public outcry because this is clearly a waste of time and money.”

Lt. McGraw said alcohol abuse is a top priority but that CU has to discourage blatant marijuana smoking.

CU spokesman Barrie Hartman said he didn’t know how long it would take to identify and charge the pictured suspects. Students could face a $100 fine and a “strike” against their school record, CU officials said.

“But school is out very soon,” he said. “So the clock is working against us on this thing.”

The “4/20” smoke-out has been drawing crowds for years, but this is the first year CU police have tried to catch participants with online pictures. Hartman said he thinks CU will succeed in charging a “representative sample, to set an example.”

But Marc Muniz, 22, said he doesn’t think anyone will get in trouble.

“I just think the police are trying to appease the citizens and make it look like they’re doing something,” said Muniz, a CU senior. “But I don’t think they’re going to get anything done.”

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