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April 24, 2007

Thousands at UCSC burn one to mark pot holiday

Up to 2,000 UC Santa Cruz students celebrated '420' on Friday by smoking marijuana on Porter Meadow as law enforcement officers stood by.

Since Friday, footage of the event has been circulating widely around the Internet, with several different videos posted on YouTube.com and other social networking sites.

"There was a lot of talk about the cops being there and [switching locations], but so many people marched down there all at once," said freshman Molly McRoberts, whose video of the event is on YouTube. "I didn't see any police within the group"

The event is held annually on April 20, the date that corresponds to 420, which is slang for marijuana. As the clock struck 4:20 p.m., students celebrated under hazy skies and a pot cloud. Many students in McRobert's recording can be seen taking their own pictures and videos.

"I was pretty amazed at how many people there were, and I thought it would be interesting to capture," said McRoberts, who plans to major in film and digital media. "I think it's a collective group thing. If people had been more singled out, I don't think they would have been OK with [being filmed]"

Jim Burns, a university spokesman, said the school is not OK with the event, which has grown in popularity in recent years at the school Rolling Stone magazine once called "the stonedest place on Earth," but limited its law enforcement efforts to maintaining public order.

The campus has its own police force.

In an e-mail, Burns said that some students were cited for drug possession but declined to say how many.


"Our efforts to curtail this event were not driven by publicity concerns," Burns wrote in his e-mail. "Our efforts had to do with safety and the fact that this event promotes illegal activity"

While the video shows students doing an illegal drug, it could benefit the school's reputation because it doesn't show the violent confrontations between students and administrators in the past, said Ben Allen, a graduate law student at UC Berkeley and the student representative to the UC Board of Regents. A video posted on the Internet last fall showed student demonstrators clashing with police outside a regents meetings.

"The university is always faced with a delicate balance between allowing students to express themselves and maintaining control of the university," Allen said. "That's proven to be a challenge. I think Chancellor [George] Blumenthal has done a good job of trying to engage students in a more meaningful dialogue and sometimes that means more carrots than sticks"

To view Molly McRobert's video of the 420 celebration at UC Santa Cruz visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN_VsC3Tl1M or press play below.

Contact Matt King at mking@santacruzsentinel.com.

What is 420?

In drug parlance, 420 is a term for smoking marijuana or supporting the use of it. There are numerous legends surrounding its origin, but according to Snopes.com, a Web site on the truth of urban legends, 420 came about when a group of San Rafael High School kids in 1971 used it as a reminder of the time they planned to meet and light up.

  • Section 420 of the California penal code does not refer to marijuana use, nor is it the police radio code for marijuana smoking. The number for Senate Bill 420, which regulates marijuana for medical purposes, was likely a deliberate choice.
  • It is not the number of chemical compounds in marijuana. The correct number is 315, according to High Times magazine.


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