It is difficult to know exactly how and where the tradition of 420 began. Most likely, smoking marijuana on April 20th every year was started in San Rafael, California, named after the code police used to arrest pot smokers. The tradition involves the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, the counterculture, and a general resistance to authority as a form of civil disobedience. Cities like Denver, Colorado have "smokeouts" that draw thousands.
While many dismiss it as a holiday to glorify marijuana use, 420 is the perfect opportunity to discuss the benefits of marijuana legalization and an end to the drug war once and for all.
The use of marijuana can prevent, cure, or greatly reduce the pain from a multitude of crippling diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and strokes. And unlike poisonous and legal prescription drugs, there are virtually no side effects.
The implications of drug prohibition (or any prohibition) state that the government has an ownership claim to all or a portion of your body and the decisions an individual chooses to make regarding his/her body. In "the land of the free," this is the ultimate denial of freedom.
The prospect of all drugs' being legal and available is a frightening concept to most, precisely because we have been conditioned to accept restrictions on freedom for vague abstractions like "the public good," and have embraced the chains of our servitude. Freedom is responsibility, which makes us uneasy to accept the consequences of it.
And while some may not be convinced of the moral case for ending the drug war based on individual liberty, then there are many tangible events that suggest major reform is needed. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of current and former members of law enforcement advocating drug legalization, know first-hand how drug prohibition increase crime rates, gangs, and cartels, and also distract police from prosecuting real violations of persons and property.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." It's time we applied this wisdom to our drug policy.
Timelapse of Boulder on 4/20