By Mason Tvert
420 was bigger than ever this year. Major news sources like the Chicago Tribune and MSNBC.com carried stories about how widely recognized and commercialized the marijuana holiday has become, and reports of major demonstrations and public smoke-ins filled newspapers and newscasts all over the country. As usual, the week before the event was filled with editorials and preview stories that portrayed 420 as a nuisance in which people openly defied the law.
Nowhere was the 420 hysteria more prevalent than in Colorado, where thousands traditionally gather on the University of Colorado (CU) campus in Boulder and in Denver’s Civic Center Park.
For example, an editorial in the Daily Camera, a Boulder newspaper, called the event “mostly a juvenile stunt” at which “few will be interested in democracy or changing laws.”
“They’ll just be there to thumb their noses at ‘the man,’” it concluded.
The notion that 4/20-goers do not want to see marijuana laws change is clearly ludicrous, but let’s just assume that it’s true. Let’s say it is juvenile, it isn’t about changing laws, and it is simply about people thumbing their nose at “the man.”
My question to the editors: what’s the problem with that?
Really, why is 4/20 so problematic when there are actually no serious problems associated with it? At least no problems caused by those using marijuana.
No riots. No fights. No deaths. Nothing. Just a bunch of people gathering in a particular place on a particular day, “acting juvenile” and getting intoxicated in public.
Is this any worse than, say, a college or professional sporting event? Consider for example Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Showdown, the annual football game between the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.
This past year the traditional game between the interstate rivals was held on September 1 (9/1) at Invesco Field in Denver. As per usual, thousands of fans crowded into the parking lot to tailgate before the game, publicly consume whatever booze they might have brought with them, and basically “act juvenile” up until and throughout the duration of the game. After all, beer-bonging, big foam hands, the wave, and high-fiving are hardly a model for mature behavior.
Yet this event on 9/1 was widely considered acceptable – it was welcomed, even. Whereas, for some reason, 4/20 is not.
Despite the fact that thousands of people around the world smoke marijuana all day at annual 4/20 events, nobody has ever died as a result. In fact, nobody in history has ever died solely from using marijuana.
The same certainly cannot be said for alcohol, and unfortunately the same cannot be said for the annual college football event in Colorado.
On the day of the Rocky Mountain Showdown in 2004 (this time on 9/4), Colorado State University freshman Samantha Spady drank so much alcohol before, during and after the game that her body simply stopped functioning that evening and she died. Whether it was drinking at the game or using marijuana at a 4/20 rally, 19-year-old Sam Spady would have been breaking the law. Yet for some irrational reason our society deems the former typical college behavior and the latter a public nuisance.
Speaking of public nuisances…
On 4/20, there were zero arrests at CU and fewer than 10 in Denver, none of which were for violent or aggressive behavior. Only about five people combined between the two events required medical attention (just about all of which were for dehydration).
Compare this to the football game on 9/1, at which medical crews were called to 125 alcohol-related incidents, ambulances took 14 people to the hospital for alcohol-related issues, 46 people were sent to detox for being too intoxicated, and 12 were arrested for fighting and other crimes.
The 4/20 and 9/1 crowds also treated police quite differently. On 4/20, nobody demonstrated aggression toward police and no serious police confrontations occurred. Yet on 9/1, police were forced to don riot gear and use tear gas after drunken fans began pelting them with bottles and spraying them with beer.
It’s time the media stops blindly buying into the anti-marijuana hysteria and starts asking itself and the powers that be some serious questions.
If a marijuana rally is more peaceful and less troublesome than a college football game, why is it a problem? Or, perhaps more importantly, if marijuana contributes to far fewer problems than alcohol, why is it illegal?
Mason Tvert is the executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER). Find out more and contact SAFER at: www.saferchoice.org