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Published on April 21, 2024
4/20 Celebrations Ignite National Dialogue on Cannabis Reform and Industry ChallengesSource: Unsplash/David Gabrić

As clouds of smoke unfurl over college quads, 4/20 once again staked its claim as the unofficial high holiday for cannabis enthusiasts and supporters of marijuana legalization. Saturday's festivities saw students and advocates gather to light up at 4:20 p.m., marking a day that's morphed well beyond its original humble beginnings into a nationwide call for reform—and a sales bonanza for dispensaries in states where recreational pot is legal.

This year, the communal puffs of 4/20 were also a moment for activists to decidedly take stock of just how much the pro-cannabis movement has achieved. Recreational marijuana use has gotten the green light in nearly half the states and Washington, D.C. New measures to promote "social equity" have been set to launch, aiming to ensure that those communities ravaged by the war on drugs—the communities of color—now stand to gain from the burgeoning legal market. Even the federal government has signaled a willingness to, at least, entertain marijuana reform initiatives, as reported by ABC News.

Davis has warned about the dangers of high-potency marijuana, drawing connections to psychiatric disorders, schizophrenia, and an increase in suicide risks. "When you can increase the potency of a product, it becomes more addictive," Davis emphasized, cautioning that the nation's focus on opioids like fentanyl shouldn't eclipse the significance of cannabis addiction. This session, a law mandating warning signs at retail outlets advising customers of potential health effects has passed, capturing attention for the push toward public awareness, according to KING 5.

Moreover, the rise of big business in the cannabis sector poses new challenges for small-time growers. As detailed by VOA News, McPeak explained that many smaller producers are struggling to stay afloat amidst competition with larger, more established companies. Additionally, the specter of past incarcerations for marijuana offenses casts a long shadow. "We've got to keep burning that shoe leather until we get everybody out of jails and prisons," McPeak said, outlining the ongoing fight even as legalization spreads.

The founders of 4/20, the Waldos, while not political themselves, have acknowledged the charged atmosphere of their time. "We're jokesters," Capper remarked. "But there was a time that we can’t forget when it was secret, furtive." He concedes, "It's not good they were putting people in jail," in an era that thankfully seems to be vanishing amid the smoke of progress, as he told VOA News