Reefer Madness!


Pot…Ganja…Wacky Tobaccy… Jazz Cigarettes.

Whatever you want to call the stuff, there will be a distinct aroma in the air in Vancouver on April 20th. And even though Vancouver’s Park Board voted last week to deny permits for the annual 4/20 celebration to go on in Vancouver parks, the crowds will still show up. Weed will be smoked publicly, pot-brownies consumed and Hacky Sack played.

There are a few theories about why it’s called 4/20. One urban legend is that there are 420 chemical compounds found in cannabis (not true – it’s actually 315).

Another claims that 4/20 is the police code used when busting someone for marijuana – as in, “We’ve got a 420 in progress. Send backup…and more donuts.”

The most popular story involves high school students in California. This one actually holds some water. In 2009, The Huffington Post was able to locate a group of five friends at San Rafael High School who called themselves the “Waldos.” The group apparently coined the term in 1971 as a code for when they were going to meet up to smoke pot after school. They were fans of the Grateful Dead and began using the phrase with their other Deadhead friends.

Then in 1990 Steve Bloom, an editor at High Times Magazine, saw 4/20 explained on a Grateful Dead concert flyer and started using it in the magazine.

Is 4/20 a party or is it a protest? Perhaps it’s a little of both. It’s important not to take Canadian pot laws too lightly because though it seems we’re on a fast track to legalization, there are still people having to deal with law enforcement even for possessing small amounts. These tend to be the poor and disenfranchised, those whose lives can be permanently affected by a conviction for something many of us assume is now perfectly legal.

Dana Larsen is a cannabis activist. He estimates that more than 50 thousand people have been arrested in Canada for pot possession in the time since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015. It’s a high number considering many thought Canada would be one big pot-party once Trudeau’s Liberals made it back into power.

We spoke to Larsen this week on Roundhouse Radio. You can click here to listen to that.

And thanks for listening to “Strong & Sharp” (that’s me and Kirsten Sharp along Kerry Marshall with news, weekdays from 6 to 9 am on Roundhouse Radio!)

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