Yesterday, was National 4/20 Day also known as the unofficial weed smokers holiday, where those who choose to indulge, lit up a joint, or blunt or bong hit to celebrate their affinity for marijuana. The name 4/20 was derived from law enforcement’s use of the code to identify a marijuana related arrest. Avid pot smokers have sense then, coined the lexicon 4/20 as a hip way of mocking the standard police code and as a covert means of communicating to other smokers, that they were about to get high.
Over the past few years the stigma of smoking weed seems to have subsided to a degree, primarily because pot is now accepted as a medical alternative to chemically manufactured pharmaceuticals. The AMA just last year reversed their long held position that marijuana was strictly a recreational drug with no medical benefits, and affirmed that it possesses therapeutic benefits and called for further research. This was certainly good news for people who rely on marijuana as a means of medication for illnesses such as chemo recovery, fibromyalgia, glaucoma and a host of other ailments.
The other primary factor in the waning stigmatization of weed is the outright promotion of marijuana by so called celebrity stoners such as Snoop Dogg, Woody Harrelson, Bill Maher and long term pot advocate, Willie Nelson. Fifteen years ago, it was rare to see respected actors and television personalities publicly advocating the use and the legalization of marijuana, for fear of damaging their public reputations. But now, the tide has obviously changed, and the idea of a celebrity publicly supporting legalization of marijuana is far from taboo.
Recently, Alec Baldwin while hosting the Oscars, took a shot at Woody Harrelson, who was in attendance, and quipped that Woody probably almost forgot to come to the show, because he was so high. To which, Woody simply smiled and tacitly agreed with him, by nodding his head. This kind of exchange on the biggest stage in entertainment, is a clear indication that Americans are more comfortable discussing weed as an acceptable drug, along the lines of alcohol and prescription medication.
According to a recent poll, about half of all Americans support the idea of legalizing marijuana. In California, marijuana advocates recently gathered enough signatures to place the legalization of pot on the November ballot. This will be a closely watched initiative in the upcoming elections and may overshadow some of the nationwide Congressional and Senate races, due to its’ potential impact on other state’s initiatives to police the distribution and consumption of marijuana.
Currently, there are 13 states that recognize weed for medicinal purposes, including Alaska, Washington, California, Nevada, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, Maine, Hawaii, Colorado, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont. Each of these states will most likely be impacted by California’s vote on the legalization of marijuana, as advocates and users in those states may seek to replicate the Golden State’s playbook in an effort to further force the issue of legalization in their own states.
Marijuana is currently the largest cash crop in America, bigger than corn and wheat, generating an astounding 36 billion dollars a year in revenue for growers and distributors. The continued easing of attitudes towards marijuana will eventually force state and federal authorities to find ways to control its production, decriminalize possession, generate tax revenues and increase education of teenagers about the effects of excessive use.
Regardless of the outcome in November, the issue of legal marijuana will continue to be a highly debated topic, due to its growing acceptance as a medicinal drug and not just a purely recreational drug. However, most people who smoke, are recreational smokers and that’s why many Americans are reluctant to its embrace weed as a legal drug.
If Californians vote to legalize marijuana, hopefully, the state will institute an oversight committee to prevent dispensaries from operating near schools and playgrounds and also treat public weed smoking in the same manner that public tobacco smoking is treated. After all, having the legal right to smoke shouldn’t necessarily impose upon non-smokers and on those we wish to protect the most, our children.
Barrington D. Ross