4/20 is a day burned into smokers minds the world over. It is a day to celebrate marijuana, a day to protest prohibition, and for some just a day like any other. It is safe to say, smoker or non-smoker, it is hard to ignore this one day in April. They day itself may be innocent enough but is it good for the global image of marijuana?
Everyone has seen the photos. Scruffy faced, dreadlocked individuals huddled outside your local parliament brandishing signs reading anything from “Free Pot” to “Smoke Weed Everyday”, pulling on incredibly large joints. Canadian or American flags with the iconic leaf or stars replaced with the recognizable 5 leaf iconography that has come to represent all of marijuana. These are the images that represent 4/20 in the media. Those participating understand what the day represents, but those looking in from the outside are met with a collection of images that they need to analyze themselves, with the tools they have available, and through the bias they hold.
With legalization gaining ground the world over, supporters of Cannabis need to start asking if the celebration of one day is worth the image disseminated to the world. It is easy to see how a story about 200 pot smokers gathering outside of city hall could be viewed in a negative light to those who are opposed to the organic plant matter we know by many names. Imagine for a moment you are one of those individuals watching the news. You’ve never smoked, haven’t followed recent news about legalization, and you’re met with either still images or video clips of hazy public squares and mass consumption of an illegal substance. There is no ignoring the fact that marijuana constantly battles against the negative stereotypes that have always surrounded it. The token pot head or burnt out junkie are the first thing that jumps into the mind of many casual viewers. So again, maybe we need to ask ourselves if it is really worth it.
On the other side of the coin the day represents a time where supporters of legalization and cannabis in general can gather and voice their opinion in a public forum. The importance of this sort of public gathering cannot be understated. These sort of demonstrations have historically affected change on a variety of issues throughout the world. The public nature of these demonstrations are exactly what gave them their power. It follows that the more visual and vocal these 4/20 celebrations, protests, gatherings, whatever you’d like to call them, can be vehicles for change. They work to convince those opposed to consider another option by witnessing the growing visual support. Just as easily as 4/20 can focus in on the stereotypical image of the pot smoker, it can also highlight those who are not of that ilk. Head down to a rally and you are just as likely to see a businessman in a suit as you are a hippie with no shoes on. A variety of people smoke, and 4/20, as a day of celebration, proves it.
April 20th is a day to publicly demonstrate that cannabis is more than a small underground counterculture and should continue to be a day for just that, but is there a way to change the way they are viewed by the general public? Is it something cannabis supporters should even be concerned about? Does cannabis need a rebranding? These are the sorts of conversations we should be having on a day like today.