With April 20th, or 4/20, falling on a Saturday this year, the annual pot smokers' holiday saw events, festivals, and concerts crop up in cities and states across the country in celebration of all things cannabis.
With a recent Pew Research Center poll showing a 52% majority of Americans polled being in favor of legalizing pot, and with new medical marijuana legalization bills underway in ten states, a lot of critical eyes were on the weed scene this past weekend.
Some folks, like a group of activists in Missouri, opted to skip festivals and parties and instead, use the awareness of the date to push for marijuana legislation reform in their own backyards. About 900 miles north, in Niagara Falls, NY, over 50 pro-marijuana activists spent their April 20th marching down Clifton Street to hold their 10th annual anti-prohibition rally in Queen Victoria Park.
The organizer of the rally, Regent Labbe, summed up his group's intent by saying, "We have to dispel the stereotype and show that we are active members of the community and are willing to fight for our rights. We aren't criminals. We're a bunch of peaceful people."
But with the number of admitted marijuana users growing with each new piece of legislation, for every well-intended activist working hard to legitimize the mainstream view of marijuana, there seems to be a YouTube celebrity or local loudmouth willing to set the movement back a step by living up to every negative stereotype we face in the cannabis community.
Campus Police at UC Santa Cruz in California confiscated a whopping 2.5 pound joint from a man who had set up a booth at the gathering to showcase his ridiculous doobie. Decriminalization laws in California allow adults to possess up to an ounce of pot before facing arrest, but the owner of the giant joint - who somehow avoided being arrested - can be seen and heard threatening the officers with a lawsuit, of all things.
While authorities and school officials typically turn a blind eye to the one-day-a-year festivities, they claim to have witnessed a growing criminal element to the event. Campus police chief, Nader Oweis, was quoted earlier in the month, citing reports of rapes and thefts in recent years at the normally peace-filled party.
500 miles south of Santa Cruz, concert-goers braved the sweltering desert heat at the famed Coachella Music Festival to spend their 4/20 crowding stages to see performances by acts like Franz Ferdinand, 2 Chainz, and The Dropkick Murphy's. Surely, plenty of people brought their own weed to the concert, but nobody could have expected to be hooked up with some dank by Queens, NY hip-hop artist, Action Bronson.
But sure enough, during his 2pm set, the heavyweight rap star revealed a white trash bag full of what appeared to be green prescription bottles - a common packaging method for medical marijuana - and began tossing free grams of top shelf herb into the crowd. When authorities took the stage to stop him, he threw the entire trash bag into the crowd.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, Bronson boasted:
I threw out 4 Oz's at Coachella on 420
-- BAM VAN DAM (@ActionBronson)
Among the most commonly used arguments against medical marijuana legalization is that it will "inevitably end up in the hands of children". Stories of parents and school officials confiscating "pill bottles full of weed" from underage kids are cited often, and what went down at Coachella only adds fuel to the fire for prohibitionists.
There is already an imbalance in mainstream news reporting when it comes to weed, and headlines like Coachella, Santa Cruz, and the tragic events that went down in Denver are sure to trump the feel good stories out of Kansas City and Niagara Falls, and everywhere else that cannabis enthusiasts gathered peacefully and without incident.
You know what they say - a joint isn't news, but a joint on fire is.