Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Author: Mike Lewis, Seattle P-I Reporter
Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: [email protected]
They are not, they insist, real-world versions of the Jeff Spicoli character in the teen movie classic, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." They don't arrive in battered VW buses and spill out, coughing, in a plume of blue-black smoke.
They write code, run Internet service providers, practice law. They do concede a weakness for Cheetos, but only after smoking. And that is, of course, exactly what they did yesterday, April 20 (4/20), the unofficial holiday that contains the hour of unity for the cannabis culture.
"That Spicoli guy, before he ever smoked marijuana, was stupid," said Michael Holden, 36, sitting in his Capitol Hill home, a blue Victorian with tulips and camellias on the outside and marijuana on the kitchen table.
"If pot made you stupid, you wouldn't have software, half the lawyers wouldn't pass the bar and restaurants wouldn't be staffed."
Behind him, friends rolled joints. It was a little after 4 p.m. The group planned to light up at 4:20, the same time as thousands of other pot smokers around the world. For the past 25 years or so, the numbers -- first as a time of day and later as a date -- have grown to symbolize a shared experience of those who smoke the illegal drug.
There are Web sites, T-shirts, coffee mugs and songs with the numbers. Pot devotees use derivatives of 4:20 for personal passwords and secret codes. For Holden, yesterday also marked the day his divorce became final. He planned that.
It's not exactly Independence Day, Easter or Mardi Gras -- or even a well-known number such as 411. And to recreational drug opponents, any celebration of a drug they say leads to harder drugs is unacceptable.
But to pot smokers devoted to their counterculture pursuit, at least it's something they can call their own.
"The date aspect of it certainly this year is bigger than ever," said Richard Stratton, editor of High Times, a 200,000-circulation glossy magazine devoted to pot culture. "If it brings more attention to the pot legalization movement, great."
According to the magazine, which investigated 4:20's disputed origin, it likely began at San Rafael High School in California in 1971 when a group of friends regularly scheduled a time to meet in front of a campus statue of Louis Pasteur and smoke dope. The term "to 4:20" spread within the high school and eventually seeped into the lexicon of Dead Heads, the Grateful Dead's most devoted fans.
From there, with the help of the Internet, it spread across cultures, timelines and borders. In Vancouver, B.C., where pot use largely is tolerated, business soared yesterday at Blunt Bros. Cafe -- a coffee shop like any other except for the glassed-in pot-smoking room in the back.
"We've been swamped since we opened today," said manager Scott Hearty, 26. "Four-twenty is internationally known, and Vancouver is known for its easy smoking atmosphere. People came in from out of the city."
In Capitol Hill, three blocks away from Holden's house, Capt. Ron Mochizuki with Seattle's narcotic unit said he didn't plan anything special for 4:20. Small quantity, personal marijuana use typically hasn't been a focus for the Seattle Police Department, he said, even before Initiative 75, the voter-approved Low Enforcement Priority measure.
Generally, personal-use possession pot busts happen when the cop is looking for something else, he said. "I've heard it was some sort of day, but to be honest misdemeanor possession of marijuana is a low priority for us," he said, sitting in the lobby of the East precinct. "It's always been a low priority."
When the minute struck, Holden, who writes open access computer code, his brother Dominic and a group of others filed outside to the porch with a couple of joints.
After lighting up, they acknowledged that while some pot smokers treasure the illegal, counterculture nature of pot smoking, they would be happy to trade the loss of their underground community for pot's mainstream acceptance through legalization -- although none of them are holding their breath waiting for that to happen.
"There's no alcohol community, no cigarette community," said Dominic, the director of Seattle Hempfest.
"We'd like it to be just like drinking a glass of wine. Personal responsibility is a right that all adults should have."
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