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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Attorney Calls Pot Party a Public Right

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - City officials have all but snuffed out a popular marijuana celebration in Arcata, Calif., a self-described "cannabis activist and attorney" claims in a federal lawsuit.

Attorney Gregory P. Allen sued the City of Arcata, its Police Chief Thomas Chapman and former City Manager Randal Mendosa on Thursday, on First Amendment grounds.

Arcata, pop. 17,250, is in Humboldt County, north of Eureka. It hosts the campus of Humboldt State University.

Allen claims the defendants are trying to smoke out the annual April 20 gathering in Arcata's Redwood Park, known among aficionados as "420."

The Redwood Park celebration was once "the largest spontaneous gathering on the West Coast between San Francisco and Portland," according to the complaint. The celebration has drawn several thousand people a year.

But after a documentary called "Pot City, USA" was broadcast on television in 2009, Chapman and Mendosa concocted a five-year plan to close the park every April 20, according to Allen.

The A&E documentary put the city's cannabis culture in a critical light.

Allen claims that in 2010 the city posted police at the park on 420 and did not allow celebrants inside, but diverted them to a nearby forest.

"Officers unlawfully singled out those persons who gathered in the community forest for increased surveillance and enforcement," the complaint states.

In following years the city used "various excuses" to close the park, such as scheduling a tree-limbing operation or dumping "2,000 pounds of smelly fish-emulsion fertilizer in the park to deter the 420 celebrants," the complaint states.

Fish emulsion is a popular fertilizer for marijuana.

This year, almost nobody showed up for the 420 celebration, Allen says.

"The 420 celebration died because Chapman, Mendosa and their allies at City Hall had succeeded in crushing this large spontaneous public gathering," the complaint states.

Allen claims that the plan to close Redwood Park on April 20 each year was a conspiracy to violate cannabis supporters' civil rights.

He seeks injunctive relief and compensatory damages for violations of the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983.

Allen is represented by Peter Martin, of Eureka.

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