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Cannabis Reform Advocates Plan Bipartisan Outreach Blitz Timed for 4/20

Many cannabis enthusiasts look at 4/20 as a time to celebrate, get blazed, and enjoy cannabis culture. However, this 4/20, some cannabis advocates want to use the “unofficial” cannabis holiday to get political, pushing for reform and moving the cannabis agenda forward at the highest levels of government. Enthusiasts may have a reputation as being laid back, but this year, more than ever, cannabis culture is taking a stand, organizing, and speaking with one voice in a way that they hope gets them heard. It is anything but a laid-back approach to cannabis reform.


What’s spurring this energy in cannabis advocates? A looming Drug Enforcement Agency decision on rescheduling marijuana is just one of the many political factors at play in a highly charged 2024 election year.


4/20 – More Than Just a Weed Party 


The date 4/20 has become synonymous with marijuana and weed culture. While many people believe that 4/20 is the secret police code for marijuana smoking in progress, the real story behind the famous cannabis holiday is a little more mundane. The most credible story of how 4/20 turned into a counterculture phenomenon goes back to a group of California high school students. The story goes that these students would meet at 4:20 after school when their extracurricular activities were finished to smoke marijuana. 420 was their code for weed. Later, one of the student’s family members helped him get a job with the Grateful Dead as a roadie. The band helped popularize the term. 


Over time, cannabis advocates and those in the counterculture movement turned the date 4/20 into a sort of holiday or a celebration of cannabis. As states legalized recreational weed, the movement grew and spread, making celebrating the unofficial weed holiday more socially acceptable. Colorado plays host to colossal cannabis gatherings and festivals on 4/20. Festivals in other states that legalized adult-use marijuana caught on, and gatherings grew in size and scope. Most 4/20 festivities are about consuming cannabis, purchasing cannabis products, listening to music, and sampling unique munchies. 


This year, advocates are hoping 4/20 celebrations look a little different. One leading cannabis group wants marijuana enthusiasts to get more involved politically this year and is planning to mobilize a large-scale bi-partisan collation of cannabis advocacy, industry, and grassroots organizations. What is the goal of this cannabis collation? The Last Prisoner Project wants these groups to unite to promote cannabis reform. Chief among the organization’s goals is to let the U.S. government know that legalization and comprehensive and equitable marijuana reform should be top priorities. Beyond the party, cannabis groups want 4/20 to stand for action. 


Many cannabis advocacy groups say they are excited to participate in a day of action, saying participation is needed to help underscore the importance of marijuana injustice in America today. Leader of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, President Kaliko Castille, says her organization is proud to support the day of action because Congress needs a wake-up call. She also notes that ending the prohibition on marijuana has broad public support, something politicians should remember in this critical election year. Other cannabis advocates say an “all hands on deck” approach is needed to get people’s attention and let them know marijuana reform is an issue crucial to minority communities and America as a whole. Bigger, bolder reform measures are needed. 


With so many pro-marijuana groups signing on, 4/20 may have less of a party vibe and more of a political action vibe, something many advocates say is needed to get the attention of Congress and the voting public. 


In the Shadow of a Great Debate 


The timing of this 4/20 political movement is auspicious. The Drug Enforcement Agency is currently considering a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reschedule marijuana. After a careful review, the HHS recommended that the DEA move marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance down to a Schedule III substance. Although the ultimate goal is broad, nationwide legalization, rescheduling marijuana would at least be a small step in cannabis reform progress, especially considering the gridlock in a divided Congress that keeps marijuana reform issues generally off the table. 


A bipartisan showing of support from leading cannabis groups and the public may help push federal reform ahead, showing political leaders that the topic is vital to voters in 2024. The DEA has received pressure from both sides of the marijuana debate, from staunch anti-drug politicians and former drug czars to progressive governors in states with legalized recreational cannabis markets. For its part, the DEA has come out and said they have the ultimate authority to decide the fate of marijuana’s schedule status. However, advocates are hopeful that presenting a united front and demonstrating the public’s will for change may be enough to help sway the government agency. 


Cannabis groups are also hoping to energize young voters and get them out to the polls this November to vote for progressive candidates in favor of cannabis reform. Voters in Ohio recently turned out in full force to support Initiative 2, legalizing adult-use marijuana in the state. It was a hard-fought battle for advocates and voters as state legislators routinely killed legalization measures brought before them during several legislative sessions over the years. 


President Joe Biden has issued two proclamations offering pardons for federal simple marijuana possession convictions. However, broad cannabis reform measures like the SAFER Banking Act continue to stall in the divided Congress, limiting the action the president can take on cannabis reform policy. Democrats and more liberal politicians hope that taking a progressive stance on cannabis reform at the state and federal levels will help get young voters out to the polls this November. 


Many of the top Republican Presidential candidates offer hazy responses when questioned about cannabis reform in the U.S. Nikki Haley recently said it should be up to states to decide. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who recently withdrew from the race, has called recreational marijuana a “real problem,” saying that drugs are killing the country during political events. Frontrunner Donald Trump seems to flip-flop on the issue, calling it “pretty popular” one minute and then saying it “does significant damage” and suggests genetically engineered marijuana may be the reason for psychotic breaks and violence. 


With support from the 4/20 community, where does marijuana policy in the U.S. go from here? Stay up-to-date on this and other cannabis-related topics at Cannabutter Digest. We are your top spot online for cannabis newsrecipes, and product reviews



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