4/20 and the Culture of Cannabis
Happy 420 to all!
A foreword here. For brevity, I’m leaving out a lot of Cannabis history. If you have questions, please contact Indiana NORML either on Facebook or our website, www.inorml.org.
For those who may not understand what 420 means, let me tell you the best that I know. Back in the 1970’s, a group of high school students in Marin County, California, would meet after school to smoke Marijuana. They’d meet at a flag pole on campus, then go to a secluded area and smoke. It soon became a password friends would share to find out if they’re on for a buzz after school. “420?” would be asked in public, and a smile would ensue.
This was the birth of the modern Marijuana culture. The seeds of the culture goes back to American colonial times, when our “Founding Fathers” knew the value of not only smokeable Hemp, but the value of Hemp in everyday life for things like canvas tarps, rope, clothing, oil and paper. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson exchanged letters discussing the best growing methods and other Hemp-related things. In one letter, Washington lamented that he returned to Mount Vernon too late to separate the male and female plants. One only needs to do that if one wants the better quality smoking Herb.
Through the years, various groups formed “Hashisch” clubs, but the majority of Marijuana use was among Mexican immigrants, longshore workers and jazz musicians. Swing era greats like Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong would refuse to perform unless they had some “Gage.”
Let’s straighten out some language here. At one time “Hemp” referred to all forms of Cannabis. Medically, it was referred to as “Indian Hemp,” or names of varieties of the plant such as Cannabis Indica or Cannabis Americana were used. Among the people, what was grown for clothing and other fiber needs was called “Hemp,” while that grown away from the clothing crop was called “Sweet Hemp.” It was so common in Indiana, that not much was even written about it. Until the end of World War II, everyone in Indiana knew about Hemp.
In 1937, with the passage of the Marihuana (sic) Tax Act, Hemp farming became de facto illegal. That is, until World War II created an extreme demand for fiber products for the war effort. The U.S. government encouraged American farmers to grow 400,000 acres of Hemp by war’s end. After the war, Hemp was banned again. It was done away with because of the competition to the petroleum and chemical industries. The word “Marihuana” was attached to it, and America’s racist fears were played upon to ban the world’s oldest cultivated plant. It was an early act of runaway greed and corporate over reach in the United States.
In the 1950’s, the Beatniks rediscovered the wonders of Marijuana. This was passed on to the early Hippies, who found smoking Marijuana didn’t cause you to be murderous, didn’t make you go crazy and caused you to enjoy the life around you. And it became the perfect icon in which to challenge the establishment.
As time went on, those of us who smoked developed our own culture. We were tired of being arrested and jailed for a peaceful, mind expanding act that hurt no one, not even ourselves. We were tired of living the lie of the American government, watching the willful destruction of our planet and our liberty. We were tired of watching our pets killed by police, our children taken away, our possessions legally stolen under the forfeiture laws. We began to stand up for our rights.
We made our own music, wrote our own books, produced our own movies, had our own cultural events. Now we have our own holiday and we don’t give a damn whether April 20th is recognized by any agency of the federal government. You don’t like what we do? Fine. We’ll make our own lifestyle and we will be the peaceful people we are by nature.
Nor will we tolerate the parent society’s treatment of us. 21 states have relegalized for medicine. Two states have relegalized for personal use, and many more are on the way. 12 states have relegalized industrial Hemp, including Indiana.
We are here to stay. 4/20 is our holiday. Enjoy it thoroughly.