Marijuana leaf

I was asked to write an article about “420.” Apropos, I guess, considering my name. So I began conceptualizing the piece. Perhaps a few interesting innuendos and stoner stories peppered with a traipse through time. As light-hearted as 420 seems to be, there are also uneasy overtones to this holiday of the high. Where to begin.

How about at the beginning. The vaunted Wikipedia confirms that “four-twenty” was coined at San Rafael High School forty-five years ago as clandestine code used by some students to denote a specified time and place for consuming cannabis – 4:20 pm in the shadow of Louis Pasteur. The term morphed to mean a need to find weed. Mushrooming through the local Grateful Dead culture, 420 landed in the hands of High Times’ Steve Bloom in the 1990s, pollinating globally through one of cannabis culture’s most time-honored magazines.

So with the approach of this hempy holiday, a happy 420 to you!

Or not so fast. Unfortunately, this date has an uncomfortable dark side. What is it about mid-April that sparks so much turmoil? As revered and joyous as the 4/20 appears to be, it and the dates surrounding it seem like magnets for a host of heartbreaks. While some are celebrating, the families and friends of others are mourning. These events need just a few words to describe them: Hitler (1889), Waco (1993), Oklahoma City (1995), Columbine (1999) and the Deepwater Horizon (2010).

Further, the twenty-four hours surrounding 4/20 include such turning points as the American Revolution’s “shots heard round the world” (1775), the first fatality in the Civil War (1861), the San Francisco earthquake (1906), the quashing of Warsaw Ghetto uprising (1943) and Mariel Boat Lift (1980).

Sorry to be a buzz kill. But this is serious stuff. Aficionados of 4/20 risk becoming thoughtless and insensitive when they fail to recognize that their “holiday” is a storied one. The glasses of some are not colored rose.

Lest four twenty’s celebratory spirit be dampened, this year, the date could be pivotal. Its obvious association with cannabis makes the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem convening this week in New York even more remarkable. At this rare meeting to be held on 4/20, U.S. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon could make good on his call for a “wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options” for cannabis control. Coming on the heels of Pennsylvania’s recent addition to the list of twenty-four U.S. states have that legalized medical marijuana in some form, along with pending legalization in Canada, an extensive article in the Lancet and supportive proposals from Colombia, Uruguay other South American countries, April 20, 2016 could be remembered as the turning point that marked the end of the war on this plant.

We shall see, but I’m still conceptualizing my article. I want it to be light-hearted, yet serious, informative and inspirational. Maybe the best way to do this is to allow the sweet aroma of fine herb to encompass the room while freed thoughts traipse through the memories in time that make for a good story and happy ending. May you have a happy, hempy holiday! And, may we celebrating the legalization of medical cannabis in Ohio on 4/20 this time next year.