4/20 and the Marijuana Justice Act
A billboard near a local freeway reads: 420 Central, and shows a marijuana plant.
Have you read or heard the phrase “4/20” and wondered what it means? I did, so I googled it.
According to Wikipedia: 420, 4:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a code-term in the cannabis culture that refers to the consumption of weed. Historically, it alludes to smoking marijuana at 4:20 p.m., and has evolved into an unofficial cannabis recognition day on April 20 (which is 4/20 in the U.S.).
Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that on April 20th, 2018, Democratic Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Representatives Barbara Lee (East Bay area, California) and Ro Khanna (Silicon Valley, California) re-introduced the Marijuana Justice Act to Congress. The legislation seeks to:
- legalize cannabis nationwide,
- expunge all federal convictions for possessing or using cannabis,
- fund libraries and job training programs in communities most impacted by the drug war, and
- cut federal funds for prison construction in states where marijuana arrests have disproportionately affected people of color and the poor.
According to an article in the April 19, 2018 edition of Newsweek, two-thirds of Americans are in favor of ending prohibition.
The war on drugs has failed and, so has the criminal justice system. On March 24, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Prisons published “Inmates, Statistics, and Offenses,” and stated the U.S. has five percent of the world’s population, and twenty-five percent the world’s prisoners, of which the majority are incarcerated on drug-related charges.
In the early 70’s, when I was in college, I dated my economics professor, who was eight years older. We decided to take a weekend trip, and because his car was in the shop, we used mine. Unbeknownst to me, he stashed a few joints in the glove compartment. I didn’t smoke (and don’t smoke) grass or cigarettes.
While driving, he hit the car in front of us. When the white, middle-aged police arrived, one of the officers requested the car’s registration. Imagine my surprise when I opened the glove compartment, and the cop reached in and withdrew the joints.
The policeman asked the professor if the weed was his, and he responded, “No, sir.”
Knowing the joints weren’t mine, I glared at my fuzzy-haired boyfriend in utter disbelief. When the cop asked me if the marijuana was mine, I looked at my companion, who stood behind the officer and shook his head no.
“No,” I murmured and stared at the asphalt.
The policeman said, “Now, I don’t care that you smoke this stuff.” He rubbed the rolled cigarettes together, crushing them, and dropping the ingredients into the gutter. “But if my partner found these, you’d be arrested and put in jail.”
That experience has haunted me. If I’d been arrested for possession, I’d have a record and my life would have turned upside down. We were lucky. But what if we were Black or Brown?
Did you know that almost fifty percent of the federal inmates are poor people of color and incarcerated on drug-related convictions?
I support pardoning the individuals who are serving life sentences for possessing or using a small amount of weed.
If you concur about ending the war on drugs and reforming the justice system, please join me in clicking here to sign the petition from Nicole Regalado of CREDO Action.
Thanks for reading.
What about you? Have you, or someone you know, had a similar experience?
Warmest Regards, Michele
P.S. If you’re interested in reading my novel, Busted, which shows both sides of the drug debate, please click here to go to Amazon.