A Tokin’ Holiday

A Tokin’ Holiday
Posted by CN Staff on April 20, 2006 at 08:16:18 PT
By Caroline Alexander and Zachary Broussard 
Source: LSU Reveille
Louisiana -- Weed. Pot. Reefer. Ganja. Dope. Mary Jane. Schwag. Cannabis. Chronic. Artists from Willie Nelson to Dr. Dre have inundated American pop culture with these terms.But even with the abundance of marijuana references in art, literature, music and film, many people woke up this morning without realizing today’s significance. Pot smokers nationwide acknowledge today — April 20 or “4-20” — as the day to celebrate marijuana use.
But few people — marijuana “tokers” or otherwise — can legitimately say they know how or why 4-20 came to be the marijuana holiday.The true origin of the phrase “4-20” as a code for marijuana smoking is spotty at best.One rumor asserts “4-20” is the number of active chemicals in marijuana. Actually there are far fewer, depending on the strain of plant being smoked. Another urban legend suggests that “4-20” is the police dispatch code for possession of marijuana — also wrong.The actual origin of the “4-20” reference is much simpler.Steven Hager, editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, a publication devoted to the pot-smoking subculture, discussed the origins of “4-20” in an interview on ABC News.“[4-20] has been a code word for many years,” Hager said. “In 1971 six students at San Rafael High School invented it. And it just sort of spread through the Grateful Dead underground for many years, and then ‘High Times’ discovered it. And once we started publicizing it, it became global.”The kids at San Rafael, who called themselves the Waldos, met at 4:20 p.m. every afternoon to get high and used “4-20” as a way to discuss their pot smoking without their parents knowing.Since the term has worked its way into the subculture, April 20 has become a day of celebration for marijuana enthusiasts nationwide, and University students are no exception.“I celebrate every year — since I started smoking when I was about 13,” said Ricardo Jeffries, mass communication senior and former president of the the University’s chapter of the Cannabis Action Network. “It started when I was a youngster with backyard BBQs and bongs. Once I got to college, I realized how many people are into this lifestyle and celebrate this day.”The Cannabis Action Network is “a nationwide team of individuals working to make cannabis legally available for medicinal, industrial and personal uses,” according to their Web site.The University chapter of CAN has used “4-20” to publicize its efforts to legalize marijuana.Jeffries said that in past years the group has set up information tables at venues such as Northgate Tavern and The Spanish Moon to recruit new members and sign petitions.“It’s hard to get anyone motivated for a cause, let alone stoners, so we use the day to get people together,” Jeffries said.The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws also uses “4-20” as a day to promote their agenda.This year’s NORML national convention starts today in San Francisco and continues through the weekend.Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, said this year’s convention will bring between 500 and 700 attendees to discuss marijuana and its legalization.“It’s a good PR hood to do something on that particular day,” St. Pierre said. “We chose that date because it’s a celebration of the culture itself.”No organized efforts are scheduled on campus this year.CAN is no longer an official student organization, but Jeffries said he is going to keep the party going this year at SoGo Live, where Galactic is scheduled to play.But SoGo is not endorsing the event as a pot-oriented celebration.“It’s ‘4-20’, but we’re not having a festival,” said John Bell, SoGo’s talent buyer. “If the kids want to call it that, they can. We’re just having a show on that date.”Even without an official CAN-sponsored celebration, other “4-20” revelers will venture out to SoGo Live and other music venues to enjoy music and the camaraderie of like-minded smokers.“I typically always go to a concert,” said Burton Kirk, general studies senior. “It’s a guaranteed day that a good band will be playing. It’s a good day to go party.”While “4-20” celebrations bring groups of people together and promote a live-easy culture, the day does have its detractors and downsides.“It’s bittersweet,” St. Pierre said. “It’s an organic event that has come about naturally by its own impetus just because people in the culture have promoted it. The bitter part is because when some individuals have come out to celebrate, they portray a stereotype that is less than helpful in trying to change the laws.”St. Pierre cited long hair, facial jewelry and tattoos as being “cultural turnoffs” for some people, and the day certainly has that component.“I wear wire-rim glasses and have never had hair longer than my ears,” St. Pierre said. “When I go in to talk about the organization, they say, ‘Well, where’s the long hair?’ They almost expect a stereotype, and that’s unfortunate.”On top of unfair expectations, pot smokers must also deal with the legal ramifications of their celebrated pastime.“We’re not exactly mainstream,” Jeffries said. “Because it’s illegal, we’ll always have problems with credibility and legitimacy.”But by and large, Jeffries agrees the overall positives of the day outweigh the negatives.“It helps more than it haunts,” Jeffries said. “It’s one day a year where I find that even people who would never normally admit that they smoke or support the cause will come out and sign a petition or donate a little money. And if they don’t do that, they might at least find a friend’s house and blaze one.”In fact a lot of the “stoner” stereotypes are no longer applicable, since many activists who enjoy celebrating “4-20” are now ex-hippie professionals and grandparents.St. Pierre said participants at the NORML convention will represent a vast cross section of the pot-smoking community.“There will be lots of gray hair,” St. Pierre said. “The median age is 50 to 55. It’s a lot of professionals and long-time activists. The people represent everyone from waiters and students to Nobel prize winners and millionaires.”Even with so many participants trying to legalize marijuana, the drug is still illegal in Louisiana which means LSUPD will be on high alert for pot smokers today.Major Lawrence Rabalais said LSUPD is aware of the holiday and will have plain-clothes officers scattered throughout campus.Rabalais said arrests usually occur after someone smells burning marijuana and notifies LSUPD to investigate.Chief Ricky Adams said LSUPD can do everything “up to and including” meeting with the individuals and searching the suspicious area.“But there are a lot of hypotheticals,” Adams said.He said the possibility of officers entering a person’s home “depends on circumstances of the individual case.”Along with criminal records, some detractors of marijuana use believe it carries other negative consequences.Amy Copeland, clinical psychology professor and director of the University Psychological Services Center, attributes a condition known as amotivational syndrome to marijuana use.Amotivational syndrome refers to an apathy towards social interaction and activity brought on by an external event or substance.“Marijuana is more sedating than energizing, so people aren’t going out and getting things done,” Copeland said. “When you’re smoking marijuana, you’re just generally apathetic about things. You’re not thinking about the big picture. You’re not as goal-directed.”However, die-hard supporters of marijuana use disagree with this diagnosis.Jeffries said labeling pot-induced changes in attitude “amotivational syndrome” is inaccurate.“It doesn’t take away your motivation,” Jeffries said. It just shifts it. So what if when you’re high you don’t feel like writing a five-page report. You know what you do feel like doing? Practicing on your guitar. So you might not feel like slaving away in a hot kitchen. You know what you do want to do? Beat your new computer game.”Note: Marijuana users nationwide mark April 20 as a celebration of the illegal drugSource: LSU Reveille (LA Edu)Author: Caroline Alexander and Zachary Broussard Published: April 20, 2006Copyright: 2006, LSU ReveilleContact: opinion lsureveille.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives 
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