Column: 4/20: Blaze it?

Oh my god, marijuanas!! | Photo by Flickr user duncan c

Oh my god, marijuanas!! | Photo by Flickr user duncan c

This one’s a little late in the game, but here’s my take on everyone’s favorite holiday, 4/20.

4/20 is as 4/20 does.

Yeah, sure, you could do bong rips by the river and watch the boats go by or treat yourself to a dank brunch from the café next door, but you could also just stay in bed and watch Archer. You could even do nothing at all and that would be perfectly fine. 4/20 just isn’t momentous like it used to be.

April 20th (AKA 4/20), a “holiday” of stoner culture, is about nothing but getting really high. Everyone knows that. But like why white lighters are bad luck, no one really knows why the date is significant. There are a billion theories about the date’s backstory; some say it was police code for active pot smoking while others claim it had something to do with the Dead. But the most prevalent explanation traces back to San Rafael, California in the late 1970s. A group of friends would meet to smoke joints at 4:20 p.m. every day and “420” soon became code for going to get high. April 20th thus became a day to commemorate blazing up by you guessed it, blazing up.

Unfortunately, anyone who could confirm that origin has likely smoked their long-term memory out of existence. Now when you see “420 friendly” listed on a hipster Tinder profile you know it just means they like to smoke weed. It’s a phrase that has no real meaning but is thrown around as stoner culture by the media and midnight tokers alike.

But getting high these days isn’t as counter-culture as it used to be. Gone are the days of blazing up and sticking it to The Man; The Man is now the one in charge of the cannabis industry (greetings, government regulation!). Recreational cannabis use is legal in four states (not including Washington D.C.) and medical use is legal in 19. At least four more states are expected to legalize recreational use this election cycle.

With barriers to marijuana disappearing, 4/20 – and smoking in general – isn’t as esoteric as in days gone by. Anyone over 21 living in Alaska, Colorado, D.C., Oregon or Washington can legally buy that OG Kush and partake. 4/20 has become a holiday of all of the people: now soccer moms, principals, tax attorneys and the other old fogey masses can hotbox their bathrooms if they so choose. Tom Petty and his fellow hippies aren’t the only ones singing about Mary Jane these days; even angst-y prepsters like The 1975 have a hit song about “chocolate”.

Reefer madness has been replaced by reefer curiosity. Every day is 4/20 as potential new smokers explore legal weed. Even my mother’s anti-pot friend admitted to stopping by the rec dispensary because she was curious. She came bearing reports not of Marley heads bumping “Buffalo Solider” but of clean spaces, friendly staff and wide selection.

As recreational shops open their doors around the country, experiences like this are bound to become common place. People of all backgrounds are going to experiment with cannabis products. This new territory will obviously have kinks to iron out, like the VICE reporter who drank a bottle of weed lube and was high for three days. But once The Man finishes distributing dosing and packaging regulations, weed will surely be as accepted as alcohol, tobacco or caffeine.

The question is, what will this nation look like under 4/20 friendliness? Will Crate & Barrel start stocking prints of Jerry Garcia and The Chronic? Will lava lamps finally have a re-comeuppance? Anti-pot lobbyists paint apocalypse landscapes of free-roaming Rastafarians and eight-year-old stoners, but I think the effects will be less cataclysmic. I look forward to outdated myths vanishing; not all users are degenerates and pot is no more a gateway drug than alcohol or caffeine.

Weed also holds potential outside of dabbing and watching Adventure Time. Just as micro-doses of LSD are helping Silicon Valley workers think creatively, weed can be used in pioneering ways. The DEA just approved a study on the effects of cannabis on veterans with PTSD. Medical marijuana patients already use their green cards to treat anxiety; marijuana could become a viable alternative to highly-addictive drugs like Xanax or Klonopin.

And let’s not forget about the fiscal benefits here. Let’s stop spending tax dollars on incarcerating marijuana distributors and instead earn them by (marginally) taxing the sale of marijuana. Pot pays, man; just ask Colorado. The state almost had to pay back its residents for all the weed purchased the first year of legalization. The whopping $50 million collected in taxes so overshot the expected revenue that by law, the surplus had to be refunded to taxpayers. If residents had voted for the refund every taxpayer would have received between $6 and $32. Instead, they voted for the state to keep the money and use it to build schools. How degenerative is that?

So why spend time worrying about how to spend your 4/20? It’s a relic of the past. You could toke up in the woods of San Rafael or make an apple pipe for old times’ sake, but why would you? There are bigger and better things coming for pot users (hello über-potent new strains), so you might as well wait for them. Or vape like the grownup you are.

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