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According to History, 420 can be traced back to a group of five California teens who used to hang out by a wall outside their San Rafael school—a meeting spot that inspired their nickname, “the Waldos.”
In the fall of 1971, the Waldos learned of a Coast Guard member who had planted a cannabis plant and could no longer tend to the crop. Provided with a treasure map (some say by the plant’s owner himself) supposedly leading to the abandoned product, the group would meet at the Louis Pasteur statue outside their high school at 4:20 p.m. and smoke “grass” together. It was the 70s.
Science says cannabis is good for more than laughs and munchies.
According to Marijuana Moment, legalizing marijuana for adult use is associated with decreased use of prescription drugs for the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, sleep, pain, and seizures.
America’s history of discrimination kills the vibe
According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana.
For decades, criminalizing marijuana against Black people has destroyed lives, fractured families, and dissected communities. Today, the billion-dollar cannabis industry is booming for Whites while Black people have to fight to gain entry into the very industry which has exploited us.
4:44 on 420
While ultra-wealthy Blacks like Jay-Z can enter the cannabis business with relative ease, organizations like The Generational Equity Movement (GEM), a coalition of five Black-owned cannabis businesses in D.C., are often needed to advocate for African Americans in cannabis-regulated areas.
According to AFRO News, the hope is to persuade the D.C. Council to collaborate with Black I-71 shops in conversations surrounding marijuana legislation, and GEM has demanded that a pathway be created for licensing Black-owned gifting shops.
The Politics of Cannabis
In his viral“37 Seconds” campaign video, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gary Chambers of Louisiana sparked a national conversation about marijuana by highlighting disparities and drawing attention to the broken system that’s approved it along.
Since 2012, 18 states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults over the age of 21. In addition, 38 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana — meaning that a majority of Americans have access to cannabis, whether medically or recreationally.
On April 1st, the House of Representatives voted to decriminalize marijuana through the MORE Act, formally known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. If passed by the full Congress, the bill would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.
Much like the 4th of July, it is often impossible for Black people to wholly embrace a holiday when parts of its history involve our exclusion or subjugation. In the same manner, 420 can be embraced while also acknowledging the racialized history of marijuana provides a hazy-at-best indicator of things to come.
While marijuana is often credited for memory loss, there’s not a strong enough Sativa or Indica to make Black people forget yet another American system that has failed us.