Bong-a-Thon, in a town called Stoner, under fire from locals

A giant pot party in the quasi town of Stoner is raising reefer-madness fears in southwest Colorado.

The 32nd Annual Colorado Invitational Bong-a-Thon, which advertises “competitive toking”, is expected to draw around 1,000 cannabis connoisseurs onto 52 private acres north of Cortez  for pot-smoking contests, camping and music July 31-Aug. 2.

The Bong-a-Thon had been taking place off and on in the shadows for four decades. It had been moved around to secret locations every year until pot was legalized in 2012. Since then, it had been held in Park County.

The organizers decided to move it to Montezuma County this year because the Park County permit requirements had grown too onerous and expensive, event organizer Chris Jetter said.

A place named Stoner with an owner who loves the idea of Bong-a-Thon made it too good to pass up as a new home for the weed fest, Jetter said.

Bong-a-Thon had been under the radar this year because Jetter had been referring to the event using the truncated name Colorado Invitational. He had not included the Bong-a-Thon part when he applied for an amplified noise permit from Montezuma County. He never mentioned the event is a carnival of competitive cannabis consumption with contests that include tokers racing to ingest a quarter ounce of pot. Last year’s record: 5 minutes, 18 seconds.

Montezuma County officials and neighbors in the Dolores River Valley just figured out that the invitational was a bong bonanza in their usually quiet, rural area. And they aren’t happy.

“We’re really disappointed in this. We believe this is not a right thing for this area,” said Doreen Garlid, who lives around the bend from the event venue and is organizing neighbors to stop the invitational on the grounds that it would bring too many people and too much traffic. She also doesn’t like that there would be no containing the extreme stoners.

The Montezuma County Commissioners this week voted to seek a court injunction to stop the event.

Their attorney warned the commissioners it might not be easy to obtain or easy to enforce, even though the county turned down a high-impact permit for the event.

If the Bong-a-Thon organizers go forward with the event – as Jetter promises they will – the county couldn’t do more than impose up to $1,000 in fines.

Neighbors and officials are now turning their attention to other agencies that might have more muscle, such as the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado State Patrol, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and even the Army Corps of Engineers (the land contains wetlands).

This may be the first Bong-a-Thon-related hubbub for the Stoner area, but it is far from the first hot-button event in this historic speck of a town with a drug-friendly name.

Nearly three decades ago, an annual gathering of the Hell’s Angels there created a big stir but did not cause lasting damage. 

In more recent years, Stoner has drawn fire because a colorful entrepreneur named Frank McDonald bought the property with plans to turn it into a cannabis-friendly resort. 

“Ol’ McDonald”, who calls himself the mayor of the “town” that has nine buildings in various states of dilapidation and two residents, this week told Montezuma County officials that he is planning to be married in Stoner the weekend of the Bong-a-Thon. His idea is that the officials can’t stop a wedding on private property.

Jetter is taking another tack: He claims Montezuma County is trying to do an end-run around Colorado’s cannabis-legalization laws. He vows to thwart that.

“We plan on being down there and we expect about 1,000 people,” he said. “We will go prepared for harassment.”

Photo credit: Photo credit: Cannabis Culture, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a journalist for more than 40 years, most of that on the Western Slope of Colorado. She worked for The Denver Post for 17 years and currently is freelancing and exploring book possibilities in “retirement.” She likes nothing better than telling the unique, and sometimes quirky, stories of the Western half of the state.