Pot advocates nationwide light up for 4-20
April 20, 2009
OAKLAND ” Afternoon smoke breaks took on added meaning Monday as pot advocates observed what has become their unofficial national holiday.
“It’s a time for us to celebrate our pastime, I guess you could call it, or adult substance of choice,” said Richard Lee, president of Oaksterdam University, a trade school for cannabis club workers. “It’s like St. Patrick’s Day is for drinkers.”
Stories on the origin of 4/20 vary. But according to Steven Hager, creative director of New York-based High Times magazine, the term originated in Northern California with a group of friends at San Rafael High School in 1971. The friends got a tip about an abandoned marijuana patch and began meeting at 4:20 p.m. to go foraging. The patch proved elusive; the term stuck.
By the late ’70s, people were spontaneously gathering at Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County on 4/20; High Times printed a flier advertising one of the events in 1991. “We recognized right away that this was a ritual encoding of the cannabis culture,” said Hager.
For years, the term was a kind of code ” roommate listings might specify “420 friendly,” for example.
But the term, and the holiday, have become more mainstream as more attention has been focused on marijuana issues, from more states allowing medical use to California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s recent proposal to treat marijuana like alcohol ” illegal for those under 21, driving under the influence prohibited ” and reap the tax dollars.
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“I knew something had changed culturally three to four years ago when major corporations, like film and music companies began tailoring their marketing of certain products on 4-20,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.)
Events marking the holiday ranged from concerts charging admission to private parties and informal get-togethers at city parks. In New York, High Times was throwing a bash at a secret location that included the crowning of “Miss High Times.”
Among the many events in California was a fundraiser being thrown by Oakland medical marijuana clubs for City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, a supporter of medical marijuana use.
“I think it’s a really important moment in time right now for the medical marijuana movement,” said Kaplan, citing recent developments such as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announcement that the Obama administration would target medical marijuana distributors only if they violate federal and state law, a departure from the past when dispensaries were targeted even if they complied with California law allowing marijuana use for medical purposes.
But not everyone is a fan of 4/20.
University of Colorado administrators urged students not to participate in the annual event.
At the University of Santa Cruz, impromptu gatherings on campus have become such a problem that administrators were closing some campus entrances Monday afternoon, hoping to discourage visitors and reduce the risk of people driving around impaired pedestrians.
They also sent a letter to parents of freshmen.
“Marijuana use is illegal and the presence of so many unwelcome visitors severely impacts the mobility and safety of students, faculty and staff,” said campus spokesman Jim Burns.