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Weed Activist Can Sue Town For Shutting Down His 4/20 Party

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled to give a marijuana activist a second shot at suing a California town that he claims conspired to shut down a 4/20 marijuana celebration at a popular city park.

Gregory Allen initially filed his lawsuit against the city of Arcata in 2014, claiming that city officials conspired for more than five years to snuff out the annual 4/20 party at Redwood Park. In his suit, Allen claims the city would do things to suppress the celebration, including creating a series of “excuses” to close the park on April 20 — when people across the world celebrate cannabis — like scheduling a “tree-limbing operation” one year, and spreading “2,000 pounds of smelly fish-emulsion fertilizer in the park to deter the 420 celebrants,” Allen’s complaint alleges. This year, Allen claims, city officials locked the gates to the park, discouraging people from attending the celebration.

Allen’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2015 after a lower court found that injuries alleged in the suit did not fall within the two-year statute of limitations because it only alleges injuries in 2010, when he was initially denied entry to the park. On Friday, the 9th Circuit ruled that the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge James Donato, should have given Allen the opportunity to amend the lawsuit to include other years he claims the city conspired to thwart the 4/20 celebration.

Arcata, which is about a five hour drive north of San Francisco, has a population of around 17,000 people — but for years, many hundreds more would swarm the town to celebrate (and smoke) weed. The legendary party was featured in a 2009 A&E documentary about the area’s pot culture,  which cast the city in a bad light. That’s when, Allen alleges, city officials started coming up with ways to discourage people from publicly celebrating weed at the park.

“If you can’t express yourself on the parks and streets of this country, you’re in a police state,” Allen’s attorney, Peter Martin, said in an interview with Courthouse News. “It’s a fundamental right that we’ve enjoyed since the founding of the republic.”

City Manager Karen Diemer told the publication she’s confident the amended suit will also be dismissed.

“We believe there are additional grounds of bases to dismiss this case in its entirety, and we will address any specific complaint if an amended complaint is filed,” Diemer said.

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