It's 4/20 So We Need To Talk About Legalizing Pot

And why ending the War on Drugs is a moral imperative.

"Herb the gift, from the earth, and what's from the earth is of the greatest worth. Before you knock it, try it first and you'll see that it's a blessing and it's not a curse."

Ben Harper, "Burn One Down"

It's 4/20, aka Cannabis Day or Stoner Day, the most holy day in cannabis culture, a day we celebrate Puff the Magic Dragon, the Devil's Lettuce, Marijuana. That most diabolical of all plants.

Why is this the day cannabis smokers celebrate? The origins of 4/20 go back decades.

In 1971, five high school students (Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich) in San Rafael California came up with a plan to search for an abandoned crop of marijuana.

They called themselves the Waldos because they would hang out by a wall outside of school. When they came up with the plan they decided to meet by the statue of Louis Pasteur on the San Rafael High School grounds at 4:20 pm. Originally, the code-name for this plan was 4:20 Louis, but they shortened it to 4:20.

That, in turn, became the code-word they used when they talked about toking.

Later, Steven Hager of High Times magazine popularized the story and the phrase, which had already been passed around by Dead Heads after Dave Reddix became a roadie for the Grateful Dead's bassist Phil Lesh.

In any case, over time both the time of day (4:20 pm) and the calendar date 4/20 became associated with lighting up and smoking the reefer. It's a very, very stonery story and sort of beautifully wholesome. Waldos, lol.

Legalize It, Don't Criticize It

So legalization. Over the past decade many, many states have legalized medical marijuana and some have legalized recreational pot. Here in Arizona we have both, with some dispensaries requiring a medical card and others open to the public. You can get high on your own supply without fear of reprisal from the state, without fear of the police and no risk of going to jail. (Fun fact: I was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana when I was 19 or so. I am still awaiting my apology letter).

Other fun facts about cannabis:

  • It's not addictive. Sure, people can smoke too much and as with so many things, moderation is probably wise. Balance in all things. But it is not addictive in the sense that tobacco, alcohol, opiates and so forth are addictive.

  • You can't overdose on Mary Jane. It is not possible. Good luck with that. You can drink yourself to death. You can OD on heroin or fentanyl or cocaine or meth. You cannot overdose on weed.

  • It doesn’t make people angry like alcohol sometimes does. It also won't make you a crazed killer, no matter what Reefer Madness tells us.

So why is it illegal?

That's a long story that traces the history of other big industries and their associated lobbying groups (think cotton and alcohol, both competitors of hemp and cannabis, as well as the pharmaceutical industry) and racism (pot was associated with black people and Mexicans).

It was not done for your health, or to prevent crime or accidents (getting high is typically far less impairing than alcohol and usually doesn't result in people making terrible decisions like driving drunk since it doesn't lower inhibitions the same way alcohol does).

Of course, we should embrace competitors to cotton and alcohol. Alcohol is far more dangerous and destructive than pot, and hemp is kind of a miracle plant when it comes to clothing and other uses. Hemp seeds are actually super healthy as well! And hemp as a clothing material is stronger and more tensile than cotton, and not as environmentally destructive as cotton.

Meanwhile, as a medicine, cannabis (and CBD) can be revolutionary for many people. ]

Watch this and tell me with a straight face that this incredible plant should be illegal:

End The War On Drugs, The Life You Save Could Be Your Own

Finally, legalizing marijuana is about peace and non-violence. The government should not have the power to jail non-violent offenders whose only crime was smoking or possessing a plant that grows naturally, the side effects of which are almost negligible. Ending the War on Drugs would have a massive impact on our society and culture, saving billions of dollars, keeping thousands and thousands of non-violent offenders out of our overcrowded prison system, and helping restore communities ravaged by the drug wars.

It would also take resources away from drug dealers, cartels and other actual criminals, and put more tax money into local and state coffers. We'd spend less fighting a war that doesn't need to be fought and rake in more in taxes and economic activity. The boon to the "munchies" industry would be huge. Meanwhile, making cannabis legal would take drug dealers out of the equation. The only reason it’s a “gateway drug” is because often the same dude who sells you pot can sell your other stuff as well, or knows somebody who can. Not so with a dispensary!

People still think legalizing pot is a silly cause, or just something stoners care about, or that it might lead to an increase in crime. This is all sheer nonsense. Legalizing pot (and decriminalizing other drugs, instead providing treatment for users) is a moral imperative. It is about taking back power from the state and giving it back to the people. It's about providing people with healthier alternatives to alcohol and life-changing medicine. And it's about saving the environment.

As Ben Harper says in his song "Burn One Down", this is also a matter of individual liberty: "My choice is what I choose to do, and if it's causing no harm it shouldn't bother you."

Using the power of the police and prison system to take our liberties from us, to jail us, to ruin lives and prospects, to undermine our god given right to the pursuit of happiness—these things cause harm. Not Jack smoking a joint, or Sue taking hits from the bong. We should want a less violent society, and violence starts with the state and trickles down.

Power to the people. Stick it to the man!

And happy 4/20 my droogies. One love.


Image by Brent Barnett from Pixabay

P.S. I honestly can’t believe it’s still not legal federally and I can only shake my head at the sheer cowardice, hypocrisy and greed of our political leaders. How utterly gross.

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