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4/20 sparks a conversation
A look at the history and future of the holiday all about weed
By: Charlotte Gardner and Dev Soni
Spring is a season that is full of holidays meant to celebrate mothers, fathers and of course: weed. April 20 (4/20) is a date that means more than meets the eye. People all around the world use this date as a way to commemorate and celebrate one of their favorite substances, but how did this date come to be?
The origin of this mysterious number came from a story just as silly as you would expect from anything related to marijuana use. It all started with five teens in sunny San Rafael, California. In the early 1970s, these five friends would meet after school at a wall near their high school, giving themselves the name “the Waldos.”
The Waldos somehow gained some knowledge of a Coast Guard member that grew a small crop of marijuana, but could no longer maintain it. With a hand-drawn map (supposedly from the owner), the Waldos would meet after their daily sports once a week for their epic adventures of finding lost treasure. Their meeting point would be a statue outside of their school and the time, 4:20 p.m.
Despite never completing their treasure hunt, they created a legacy unknown to them at the time that would influence globally in the coming decades. Once they started using the term among themselves to talk about their hobby, they eventually spread it to a band known as the Grateful Dead. From various connections to the band members, they would often be behind stages and have a smoke session with the people there. While doing so, their phrase spread and became a popular time for fans to get together and celebrate while consuming cannabis.
With such a light-hearted story and a growing acceptance of marijuana in modern culture, it sometimes becomes strange to think of the past it has had in the United States.
To provide some background, marijuana or cannabis, has a long history in the United States far before its prohibition in the 1920s. Before it became the target of anti-drug agencies in the nation, it was sold for years before as medicine.
People of all ages celebrate 4/20, demonstrating that this holiday is here to stay. The Cannabis Cup, sponsored by “High Times,” is an event in four major cities from Sonoma, CA, to Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
“The HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup is the world’s leading marijuana festival and trade show, celebrating the world of ganja through competitions, instructional seminars, expositions, celebrity appearances, concerts, product showcases and more,” states the “High Times” website, hightimes.com. “Hosted in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, the Cannabis Cup stands as the foremost gathering place for the cannabis community to network and celebrate.”
The Showcase, April 20 to April 22, has been hosted all over the world since 1988.
The tradition of 4/20 has helped to change the perspective of marijuana. Marijuana has been thought of as a “gateway drug” with effects that can harm those who use it and can lead to users moving up to stronger and deadlier drugs like prescription pills or heroin.
However, in an interview with “The New York Times” Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, said 4/20 could be changing the reputation of marijuana and even help people to accept its use.
“[4/20] is the biggest moment yet,” Nadelmann said. “There’s a sense that the notion of legalizing marijuana is starting to cross the fringes into mainstream debate.”
Nadelmann has been working to de-stigmatize and legalize marijuana and has noticed changes of marijuana acceptance around the country.
As of now, only 16 states and U.S. territories have decriminalized the use of marijuana. Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and the U.S. Virgin Islands have not made it legal, but they have lowered jail time and punishments for using the drug according to herb.com, another marijuana publication.
But only half of those states allow the drug to be used for recreational purposes. Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have made the recreational use of marijuana legal, and because of this, many people gather to those places to celebrate 4/20.
There is a chance that a 4/20 celebration can be coming to Connecticut sooner than you think. For the first time, a recreational marijuana bill was passed from the Connecticut Legislature to the full General Assembly for consideration on April 5, 2018, according to the Hartford Courant.
“This bill deserves an opportunity for further conversation and to get into the fine points of what that conversation should be,” Senator Paul Formica said the the Courant.
In a Public Service Announcement put forth by the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana was said to be the most widely used drug among college students. More than 85 percent of college students reported that they think their peers have used marijuana in the last month.
At Quinnipiac University many students have faced the consequences of using or possessing marijuana. Public Safety has held many searches in students’ dormitory rooms based on tips that they have received that there were drugs in those rooms, specifically marijuana.
In Connecticut, the possession of more than an ounce of marijuana can lead to a minimum of one year of incarceration and consists of a $2,000 fine according to norml.com. Distributing marijuana can have much worse consequences such as a seven-year incarceration sentence and a fine of $25,000.
Although Connecticut has not legalized the recreational use of marijuana yet, steps are being taken to secure this recreational use and the use of it medically that can actually produce beneficial health results.
Despite having a bad reputation, marijuana can help users with many medical issues. It can help with chronic pain, drug addiction, depression, cancer and epilepsy according to medicalnewstoday.com.
The inclusion of 4/20 being used as a way to shed a good light on marijuana is having an impact on changing the view of the drug and making it more socially acceptable.