A recent records request targeting a new series of Colorado public service announcements on legal recreational marijuana has turned up the perfect cost -- $420, obviously.
Earlier this month, Beryl Lipton, a reporter at the public-records news site MuckRock, filed a request under Colorado's Open Records Act about the state's $5.7 million campaign regarding recreational marijuana, called "Good to Know." Tallying up the staff time associated with Lipton's request, the Colorado Department of Health found that the minimum charge would be exactly $420. MuckRock reports that the Health Department estimated 21 hours of staff time, at $20 per hour, to retrieve and review the documents. (The agency noted that charge did not cover additional fees for the actual production of the documents, which depend on the format.)
The number "420" is significant in pot culture and is celebrated annually on April 20 (4/20) by marijuana enthusiasts around the world. Its origin, however, has been debated for decades. The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim wrote a detailed account of one story connected to a group of men known as the "Waldos."
This isn't the first time the magic number has surfaced in relation to Colorado's cannabis laws. There were also 420 days between Colorado's vote on Amendment 64, which legalized retail marijuana in the state, and the first sales on Jan. 1, 2014.
So what sparked Lipton's interest in the records of these particular PSAs?
Lipton told The Huffington Post that since Colorado is leading the charge on legal marijuana, it's important to take a close look at how the state handles the issue.
"When I see a $5.7 million price tag to educate people on what's 'good to know,' I want to know how they came up with their marijuana message and why it costs so much to get it out there," Lipton said. "If previous efforts have effectively been fear-mongering, what's going to be said here?"
Lipton expects the records request to yield a detailed look behind the scenes of the campaign with copies of contracts, drafts of PSAs and talking points that will likely indicate who was paid to develop the campaign and the website as well as what the effort's intended purpose is.
Although recreational marijuana has been legally sold in Colorado for over a year, the state doesn't seem sure how to talk to the public about it. The state's first campaign, launched in mid-2014, grabbed headlines for its giant lab rat cages placed around Denver with signage urging teenagers to refrain from using pot because of the potential effects on the brain. The kids were told, "Don't be a lab rat." (Not incidentally, the state legalized recreational cannabis only for adults 21 and older.)
Now MuckRock is hoping to crowd-fund the $420 charge for the records so that "we can finally answer the question of how high you have to be to pay $5.7 million for some banjo music and parallax," said MuckRock editor J. Patrick Brown. Check out more on the records request and fundraiser here.