The holiest of all the high holidays is almost upon us. April 20 has become the day that the eyes of the world are on the cannabis law reform movement. Hundreds of thousands of marijuana users pour into the streets in cities around the world to show their pride in the cannabis plant.
But 4/20 means different things to different people. We here at The 420 Times decided to get several perspectives on the famous day from those who live inside the movement 365 days a year; the people who see the ins and outs of the battle to legalize marijuana. How do they see 4/20?
"When I was younger, it seemed like 4/20 was just an excuse to party," Morgan Fox, Communications Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The 420 Times. "These days, I look at it as an opportunity. Despite generally poor portrayal of 4/20 events in the media, these gatherings represent a group of people relaxing and recreating with a substance far safer than alcohol, without any of the fights, destruction, or emergency room visits that usually accompany similar alcohol-oriented celebrations. It is also a chance to show the greater public that there are many people who choose to use marijuana, and they are just like everyone else. It gives us a chance to create an image that characterizes the increase in public support for reform and the uselessness of prohibition."
And thanks to the Internet and instant information sharing, the day gets bigger every year. The spotlight is brighter and the focus more intense. And now that legalization has happened in two states, more people than ever will be looking to see what we are up to.
Who would have thought we would be here just a couple of years ago?
"In 2010 California's Proposition 19 was 'the shot heard cross the world' in the cannabis reform movement," said Diane Goldstein, a former Lieutenant Commander of the Redondo Beach Police Department and now a member of the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "Because of the work of not just the activists within the movement, but because of the diversity of the coalition that included cannabis industry leaders, moms, criminal justice professionals, clergy, the healthcare industry, social justice activists and many others we changed the conversation not just nationally, but internationally. It was California that helped to advance the victories of Washington and Colorado by paving the way through the emphasis on the devastation of the war on cannabis on society.
"On the eve of this year's 4/20 celebration, the drug policy reform movement has many things to celebrate and a significant amount of work left to continue to change unjust laws. What this year's 4/20 anniversary means to me was best said by Bob Marley, 'Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight.'"
And the fight continues with more momentum than ever. Maine, Maryland, Illinois, New Hampshire, Vermont, Kentucky and New York are just some of the states working on some kind of cannabis or hemp legislation this year.
Some activists have been around for several decades, long enough to see the evolution of 4/20.
"I have always enjoyed hearing the various stories about how and when 420 came to mean a time to get high, and I am never certain anyone really knows for certain where this cultural phenomena began," Keith Stroup told The 420 Times. Keith is the founder of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the oldest cannabis law reform organization in the country. "Regardless, it has become an iconic number that for millions of people around the country, and really around much of the world, is now understood as code for getting high.
"I personally think the most crucial factor in the evolving movement to legalize marijuana has been the fact that a large number of responsible smokers have been willing to stand up and say publicly, I smoke marijuana and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Coming out of the closet has been for marijuana smokers much the same as it was for gay and lesbian Americans; it has forced our political opponents to deal with the fact that their negative stereotypes of marijuana smokers were unfounded and unfair. Understanding that basic fact is necessary before we can fully end marijuana prohibition."
And 4/20 will take on new meaning for Keith this year.
"So 4/20 and all of the public legalization events around the country on April 20th each year has played a very positive role in moving the marijuana legalization movement forward. This year I am especially excited about spending 4/20 in Denver at the Cannabis Cup, where I will smoke my first legal joint of my life, despite the fact that I have been smoking marijuana for nearly 48 years now!"
An incredible milestone for Mr. Stroup and a reminder of how long this battle has been waged over a plant that was perfectly legal for thousands of years previous to last century.
But for many, 4/20 is a day to bring continued awareness to the medical wonders of cannabis, like radio show host and cannabis grower Mike Boutin, who was featured on the Discovery Channel series "Weed Country."
"I stand for the legalization of marijuana for all adult use and hemp," Mike tole The 420 Times. "This includes recreational as opposed to strictly medical. 4/20 is legendary in that it is a stoner holiday and I am not against that. I will say that for me, ever since I started my radio career at Cannabisnationradio.com trying to educate people about the benefits of marijuana, I have tried to buck the trend on 4/20.
"So for me now it is a matter of going as medical as I can get on 4/20 to provide balance. Last year we had Alice O'Leary, The Mother of MMJ, on the show. This year you can look forward to another great American, B.E. Smith.
"I don't put down 4/20 but always put me down for 4/20."
4/20 means a lot of different things to people since tens of millions are celebrating worldwide. Most cannabis users have memories of a great 4/20 gone by, or plans for the most epic 4/20 ever coming up. Many have goals in the political realm and awareness they want to raise. And now that 4/20 is a worldwide media phenomenon, there are plenty of opportunities to show others the truth about cannabis.
So here's to all of you who celebrate 4/20 and spread the word about cannabis all year long; you are the reason the movement enjoys the momentum is now has.
- Joe Klare
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