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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Frontline: 420 is a privilege, not a right

By Julia Berkman

It’s time again for the “holiday” of choice for stoners: 4/20. The name, started by a group of high schoolers in San Rafael, California, referred at first to the time of day whereupon these stoners would ditch class and smoke weed. Soon, the terminology and culture of 4/20 spread everywhere, and it became the bonafide cannabis indicator, joining the ranks of Bob Marley tapestries and white dreadlocks as a symbol of the popular plant.

Every year on April 20, there are more than a dozen public festivals in North America devoted to the consumption and legalization of cannabis. Observers of the holiday take to the streets and parks to come together and get high. It’s a celebration of the drug, as well as a chance to show those who still carry a stigma against smoking that people from all walks of life can smoke and be successful.

However, 4/20 is a holiday for the privileged – usually white, middle to upper-middle class millennials who smoked in parks in high school and are happy to finally be able to do it when the sun is out. For all the hundreds of thousands of people who pour in droves to these events annually, there are thousands more – over a million people – who are arrested for possession of cannabis.  Nearly half of them are either Black or Latinx.

These people are often arrested for petty drug charges – nearly 90 percent of those arrested had less than an ounce of weed. These unfair double standards harm everyone. Until those who have been incarcerated for marijuana possession are freed in states where recreational cannabis is now legal, white 4/20 observers need to remember the privilege they hold when they choose to indulge. 

At Western, despite Washington’s recreational cannabis laws, you can’t get high on campus. Of course, that doesn’t stop the arb from being perpetually foggy. It’s concerning that despite the laws in place, last quarter someone from the greater Bellingham community managed to cook food with cannabis in it and serve it to several students on campus. The hubris to do so, even if the person responsible didn’t think their food would get people high, is almost satirical. Western’s community, like many insular and privileged communities that are predominantly white, have forgotten the tumultuous history of cannabis in America. 

The cannabis industry is developing quickly, and no one is suggesting a regression back to the war on drugs-era crackdown on stoners. However, considering the history and power of your drug of choice on 4/20 should be part of the holiday as much as watching “Superbad.”


The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Julia Berkman, Laura Place and Stella Harvey


  1. Is it just me or is there a pretty basic contradiction between condemning stoners as a community for privilege, due to the injustice inflicted on black and brown people by police enforcing pot laws, while also bemoaning the weak enforcement of federal laws on campus?

    Like, what do you think the police could have done to prevent the mess-up with the infused food served on campus? Do you think the police should be proactively shaking down the student body on a daily basis to prevent that? What good does it do to complain that the Arboretum is “always foggy”? What can the remedy possibly be other than to sic the same racist cops you’re insincerely critiquing here onto the student body even more than before?

    I’m writing this as someone who was criminalized for petty possession before I-502 and has actively worked to support amnesty efforts in this state, by the by.


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