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The State of the Movement on 4/20


Unless you just woke up out of a coma and somehow stumbled onto this article, you’re likely aware that it’s April 20th. The highest holiday in the cannabis community is upon us once again, which makes it a great time to look back on some of the progress the movement has made.

4/20 used to be mainly a day of protest. It was a chance for cannabis users and allies to get together and “stick it to the man” as it were. But the thing about victories is that they allow you to protest less and celebrate more. So, over the last several years, 4/20 has become less of a day of outrage and showing we aren’t going to back down and more of a day to celebrate just how much progress has been made.

Of course, there is still a lot of protest involved in 4/20 since there is still a long way to go when it comes to tearing down prohibition, but it’s been a long road to get here and some celebration is certainly warranted.

One of the people there in the early days of the movement was Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML. “As we approach 4/20/2019, the unofficial national holiday for marijuana smokers, it is a wonderful time to be alive if one is a marijuana smoker,” Keith told The Marijuana Times.

“When we founded NORML in late 1970, Gallup polling had just for the first time asked Americans how they felt about legalizing marijuana. At the time, only 12% agreed with NORML’s goal of legalizing marijuana; 88% supported prohibition and the criminalization of marijuana smokers. And marijuana arrests continued to grow each year, reaching a high of nearly 873,000 arrests in 2007.

“While it has been a long, slow process of re-educating the public about marijuana, today two-thirds of all Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a regulated marijuana market. They recognize that prohibition causes more harm than the use of marijuana itself, and that most Americans do not want the government involved in this aspect of our private lives.”

The progress has been incredible. When I started writing about cannabis in 2009, many of us spoke of legalization as something we would like to see in our lifetimes. The defeat of Prop 19 in California in 2010 solidified that impression. Now, 9 years later, we discuss legalization on the federal level as a viable option in the next few years.

“The movement to end marijuana prohibition is steadily gaining ground at both the state and federal levels in the U.S., as well as abroad,” Mason Tvert, Media Relations Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told us. “More Americans than ever before agree marijuana should be legal for adults, and there is near-universal support for allowing medical use. This is reflected in the growing number of viable reform efforts underway across the country and in Congress.

“While there is still plenty of work to be done, a substantial amount of progress has been made. More state legislatures than ever are strongly considering proposals to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use, while others are rolling back prohibition through decriminalization, expanded access for medical use, and other reforms.”

In one major way, 4/20 is still the day it has always been – the day when the eyes of the world look at the issue of cannabis law reform. Searches and web traffic relating to marijuana explode on 4/20; news reports abound and there is no shortage of opinions when it comes to the plant, its effects and its legality. This year it is an opportunity to tout the success of marijuana law reform and show that the doom and gloom predictions surrounding legalization have failed to materialize.

“I think it’s important to note that this 4/20 happens to be happening at a time when public support for cannabis policy reform has never been stronger and when the issue of how to repair the harms caused by prohibition are coming to the forefront,” Morgan Fox, Media Relations Director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told us. “This is a celebration that has steadily become more accessible as the stigma around cannabis has eroded, but it should also serve as a reminder that there are still people being arrested all over the country in a racially and economically disproportionate manner for using a plant that millions of people are now able to consume legally.

“However, things are looking up. Momentum is building in Congress to pass federal cannabis reforms that allow states to determine their own policies, and even more so to allow banks and other financial institutions to more easily work with legal cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act was recently approved by the House Financial Services Committee in a bipartisan 45-15 vote, and currently has 165 cosponsors and climbing as it makes it way to the House floor. The Senate version was also introduced with the bipartisan support of a fifth of the chamber.”

So when you celebrate 4/20, bask in the success of the past while keeping an eye on the successes of the future. The momentum within the movement must continue if we are to tear down the walls of prohibition once and for all.

“We still have much work to do,” Keith Stroup said, “but with the continued support of the American public, we will eventually legalize marijuana all across this country and restore a measure of personal freedom to the lives of tens of millions of responsible marijuana smokers.”

In honor of those who have come before and those who will come in the future, make today count.