• Delainey Smith

Marijuana: 420 & Legalization

April 20 has become an international, counterculture holiday where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis, often in a way of advocating for the liberalization and legalization of marijuana. Founder of Seattle’s Hempfest, Vivian McPeak, stated that 4/20 is “half celebration and half call to action.”

The origin of the term 420 has long been obscured by the clouded memories of the folks who made it a phenomenon. Depending on whom you ask there are many theories and answers to where the term 420 originated. It’s the strains of medical marijuana in California. It’s the number of active chemicals in marijuana. It’s teatime in Holland. It has something to do with Hitler’s birthday. It’s those numbers in that Bob Dylan song multiplied.

However, none of those are the real origin. In 1971 a group of five friends from San Rafael, California known as the Waldos because of their hangout spot, a wall outside the school, coined the term when they were in search of an abandoned cannabis crop they had learned about. The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of their high school as the meeting space and 4:20 PM as the meeting time. They referred to their plan as 420 - I don’t believe the Waldos knew their code word would eventually evolve into the code people use to mean marijuana-smoking in general.

(Image Courtesy of Myinsightmag.com)

Marijuana consumption has slowly but surely become more societally acceptable. Less than 80 years ago, cannabis was prohibited in all 50 states, now as of 2018, 29 states and the District of Columbia have some laws legalizing the use of marijuana.

Illinois has been proactive with marijuana trends; decimalizing the possession of cannabis, as well as regulating medical use. After a Cook County referendum on March 20, 2018, recreational legalization may be just around the corner. According to the Chicago Tribune’s website, an astounding 68 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of “the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older.”

This referendum was advisory only and in no way changes the current state or federal law, but according to State Representative, Kelly Cassidy who is sponsoring a bill to legalize cannabis, said to the Chicago Tribune, “[the vote] confirms what we already know: There is a broad public support for legalization.”

Cassidy and Senator Heather Steans, both Chicago Democrats have worked to introduce a bill allowing the sale of cannabis for recreational use for individuals over the age of 21. The passing of the bill will allegedly l raise $350 million or $700 million in annual tax revenue for the state, eradicate discriminatory and futile policing efforts, while simultaneously undercutting existing illegal markets and hurting cartels and dealers who prey on young users and try to sell them harder drugs.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s site, it is unlikely there will be a vote on this issue before next year, meaning it will be after the election for governor in November. This puts major pressure on anti-legalization and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his opponent Democrat J.B. Pritzker, who supports legalization.

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