Denver’s massive marijuana celebration had a similarly huge name on stage this year: the global rap sensation 2 Chainz.
But the headlining show of the 4/20 smoke-out in Civic Center Park nearly didn’t happen as organizers scrambled to come up with $12,000 in cash to pay the rapper, according to Pepe Breton, whose dispensary was a major sponsor.
And that was only the beginning of the drama.
Breton is the co-founder of the boutique dispensary chain Euflora. Now he claims he’s owed $23,000 from event organizers — and he’s staging a week-long camp-out at a city building in an attempt to take over the annual cannabis event in downtown Denver.
“I think we’re here to make a point — that this is not how you do business and this is not how you treat your partners,” said Bobby Reginelli, marketing director for Euflora. In a statement, Breton said that the event was “categorically mismanaged” and stained the reputation “of our young industry.”
Meanwhile, Miguel Lopez, the longtime marijuana activist who has for years owned the permit for the event, dismissed this as an attempt by the new money of marijuana to burn the grassroots.
“Obviously, they’ve completely forgotten where they’ve come from, both as Mexicans and a dispensary,” Lopez said in a phone interview.
“They have chosen to dissolve into the melting pot of shame only to look back at their elders and their fathers … only to declare anything as their feat and valor, as if it was their own.”
Here’s how it allegedly went down.
Tens of thousands of people crammed into Civic Center on April 20 this year, in some cases pushing over fences to get into the free event put on by Lopez and event manager Santino Walter. For most of the afternoon, though, headliner 2 Chainz was nowhere to be seen.
“4:20’s come and gone and nobody’s on stage. And the organizer, Santino Walter, comes running over to us and says, ‘I need a loan, I need a loan,'” said Reginelli.
“The artist was waiting in the hotel — I want to say the Four Seasons,” recalled Breton.
Breton told Denverite that he loaned the event’s organizers about $10,000 on April 19 to pay last-minute bills. Then, on the 20th, they told him that they needed about $12,000 more to complete the payment to 2 Chainz, he said.
“It either had to be wired or cash,” Breton said.
Not wanting the event to fall apart, Breton said he handed a check to one of the event organizers, who cashed it. Then he headed to an ATM with several friends, each one withdrawing the maximum daily allowance as they struggled to put together enough cash for 2 Chainz.
They headed back to Civic Center and met backstage with 2 Chainz’s manager. “We were literally counting money backstage with the manager,” he said. “The manager was just laughing.”
In the end, Breton said, event organizers were hustling for $1 and $20 bills to round out the payment to 2 Chainz, who is also known as “Tity Boi.”
By contrast, Lopez claimed that Breton had always been the one responsible for paying 2 Chainz. He alleged that Breton simply has “sour feelings because he didn’t get to be on stage with 2 Chainz,” he said. “They told him specifically to get back, because he kept trying to get to the front.”
Reginelli said that 2 Chainz’s security team specifically allowed Breton to stay on stage for the entire performance. 2 Chainz did not respond immediately to a tweet seeking comment.
Rob Corry, the attorney representing Lopez and Walter, had no comment on Euflora’s specific claims about debt due to pending litigation. “We throw one of the best festivals in Denver, year in and year out,” he said. Lopez said that he was only tangentially involved with the details of organizing the event.
This is far from over.
First, Breton claims that his company, Euflora, was never repaid for the last-minute loans. They have sued Walter and the company Civic Center Park Productions.
Then there’s the city government. Mayor Michael Hancock himself criticized the event when trash was found strewn across the park on April 21. Event organizers said it was clean when their permit expired after that.
“Our parks and public spaces are held in the public trust. … When you leave one of our parks trashed, you violate that trust,” Hancock said.
Later, the city moved to strip Lopez of the permit to the event. The city alleged that the organizers mismanaged trash pickup, created security risks and allowed unlicensed food vendors.
Corry, the attorney, largely denied the allegations, arguing that the city couldn’t prove its case and that problems were caused by vendors and contractors, not Lopez himself. (See our previous coverage.)
A decision on that case is expected in the next couple weeks.
Meanwhile, Breton wants to take over 4/20 in Civic Center.
The big question is who (if anyone) will get the city permit allowing them to throw a party that day. That’s a lucrative opportunity, given the huge crowds that turn out every year.
“We learned that they might lose the permit. We said that this might be an opportunity for us to try to make this event better,” Breton said.
Euflora wants to “move beyond having a 420 Rally and turn this event into a celebration of legalization, normalization and the responsible choice adults are free to make in Colorado,” according to a press release.
To that end, Euflora employees plan to camp out at Denver’s Wellington Webb Building until Nov. 1 before filing their application for the 4/20 permit.
That may or may not help them get the permit, depending on how the whole legal battle goes for Lopez and company. If the hearing officer rules against Lopez and company before Nov. 1, then the city will issue the permit on a first come, first serve basis on Nov. 1.
If the decision comes after the first, which is very likely, then the permit will be given out on a later date.
And if the hearing officer rules for Lopez and company, then they get to keep throwing the event. That’s because Lopez has a “priority right” to get the permit, a right he would lose if the city’s case is upheld.
“We told (Breton), ‘It’s up to you what you want to do. But if the hearing officer does not rule before the 1st … you’re not going to be able to do anything on Nov. 1,'” said Cyndi Karvaski, spokeswoman for Denver Parks and Rec.
Corry said he’s “pretty confident” that they’ll win the current dispute and keep the permit. If not, they could appeal the hearing officer’s decision in Denver District Court, he said.
Lopez and Walter “don’t have anything personal against Pepe,” Corry said. “If he wants to throw the same rally on the same day in the same place, I suppose I would react by saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So, we thank him. We thank him.”
This post was updated to clarify that Lopez was not named in the lawsuit seeking repayment.