Before the government legalized the young industry around the plant in 2018, activists and others gathered on this day every year to raise awareness and protest against its illegality
April 20 is no longer a day in shadow for cannabis users.
Before the government legalized the young industry around the plant in 2018, activists and others gathered on this day every year to raise awareness and protest against its illegality. Events of this type continue in the United Kingdom and Australia, but in Stony Plain, some are wondering if the day will transform.
Moonshiners bar owner David Goetz is planning a day-long music festival tomorrow at his business. In his view, it should become a celebratory holiday.
“I think it will be seen as a victory,” he said. “People have been petitioning for years and years for this and it is such a big step forward. It is amazing 4/20 even snowballed into a thing considering its origins with a whole bunch of kids.”
In 2012, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported the term and associated pseudo-holiday had its roots with teenagers in San Rafael, Calif, in 1971. At the time, a dozen friends used the term as a code for the time of day they would meet at a statue on their school grounds to use cannabis. It spread beyond the community and has since entered pop culture in music, movies and video games.
While the phrase and associated plant is more socially acceptable today, stigma does remain. The industry website Leafly reported Monday on parks officials in Vancouver banning all cannabis related events from city parks in 2017 and, though one can largely smoke in public in Edmonton, it is prohibited in Stony and Spruce Grove. For musician Brian Whelan, this is a last gasp at preserving old policies.
“That is basically keeping a stigma against it and is a little too far,” he said. “I think you should smoke wherever you want in my opinion. It is not affecting or hurting anyone. I am 36 and it is something I have done since I was 12 years old.”
In the same report from Leafly, many noted that while the day is a celebration now, there is still much to protest over. Some sentences in the laws legalizing cannabis are tougher than they were under previous legislation. Also, an Indigenous man in Winnipeg was recently sentenced to 10 months in jail for possessing 56 more grams than the 30 a person is allowed to possess when they are in a public space.
For Goetz this will fade with time that passes. But, like how other stigmas around homosexuality and women in the workplace or not being married young have come and gone, it will take people leaving society in order to change perceptions.
“We need generational change,” Goetz said. “Like everything else, once a generation halfway leaves the world that is when people stop caring anymore. Whether it is beating children or, as attitudes change, a lot of people look at 4/20 as an acceptance of what people have been doing in Canada for a very long time.”
Moonshiners’ 4/20 festival begins at 1 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m. It will feature a variety of music as well as artists painting, barbecue and merchandise for sale. Smoking will not be allowed at the venue.