The War on Pot: Why Celebrating 4/20 Means More Than Just Getting High

Events in celebration of April 20th -- cannabis day -- are widespread. From bong circles in dorm rooms to cultural celebrations to smoke-outs in city parks, 4/20 parties are eagerly planned across the country.  Though well-known and widely-celebrated,4/20 is often stigmatized and stereotyped as a “stoner” holiday.  4/20 is undeniably a day to celebrate marijuana by enjoying it, but it is more than just an excuse to light up.  The popular celebration of 4/20 -- and cannabis culture in general -- is blatantly dismissive of  U.S. policy.

As smokers nationwide celebrate their marijuana use, the Obama Administration is amid a historic crackdown on voter-approved medical marijuana programs. What's more, a recent Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, 50% of Americans support marijuana legalization. Nonetheless, 46% of drug arrests are related to marijuana possession -- and  pot arrestees are disproportionately people of color.  In many states, a marijuana arrest can result in the removal of children from parents, the inability to receive federal aid for school, and jail time. A celebration of marijuana despite the federal government’s staunch position on the plant, 4/20 represents mass non-compliance with our country's absurd marijuana laws.  

Ditching marijuana prohibition would save $7.7 billion on state and federal expenditures, and taxing marijuana like alcohol or tobacco might generate an additional $6.2 billion in revenue, totalling in $13.7 billion annually. The economic potential of legalization recently led 300 economists to sign an open letter to the President, Congress, Governors, and State Legislators asking they allow America “to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition.”   

What's more, legalizing marijuana could help ease  devastating violence in Latin America. In Mexico alone, 50,000 people have lost their lives to drug war in the past five years. As experts routinely profess, legalizing marijuana alone couldsave thousands of lives in Mexico. But while Latin American leaders urge the U.S. to consider drug policy alternatives, including legalization, the Obama Administrationrefuses to implement reformat home or abroad.  4/20, thus, is a cultural reminder of the vast disparity between marijuana laws and reality. It is a evidence that, despite 40 years of a disastrous war on drugs, people --  including Obama -- continue to experiment with, and safely enjoy, marijuana.

To sign a petition urging legislators to end federal marijuana prohibition and let states draft their own marijuana laws, click here.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at April 20, 2012, 7:51am

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