Thursday is 4/20 and here in the heart of California cannabis country it should need no introduction as the nation’s unofficial — but widely celebrated — pot smoker’s day.
And for the first time since April 20 was inextricably linked with weed nearly a half century ago at a Marin County high school, Thursday the state’s cannabis consumers — who number about 4 million — can legally indulge.
There were signs this week that many intended to do so
“I’m gonna medicate very heavily,” said Benjamin Crain, a Napa man who was shopping at a Santa Rosa smoke shop.
Crain said he inhales pot medicinally to ease chronic knee pain and recreationally to, well, get high.
“It’s the gateway drug to the refrigerator,” he said, making light of the disputed assertion that pot leads to harder drugs mixed with the time-tested truism that stoners crave snacks.
“And to sleep,” added his girlfriend, Juliann Crane, citing marijuana’s soporific influence.
Nearly 8 million California voters in November made it legal for adults age 21 and up to possess an ounce of weed and to grow six plants at home by adopting Proposition 64 by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.
“Four-20 is a celebration of a culture, an awareness and a lifestyle,” said Alexander Carpenter, a cannabis industry consultant who heads the Sonoma County Cultivation Group.
It’s also worth applauding the emergence of the county’s potent pot industry from legal shadows into an era of legitimacy, said Joe Munson, a Forestville medical cannabis grower.
“Everybody’s happy that the cops aren’t going to be showing up any more,” he said.
There are about 9,000 cannabis industry members in the county, including about 5,000 growers, according to the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, which counts 260 members.
The value of the statewide marijuana industry has been estimated at $7 billion, and officials expect the taxes built into Proposition 64 will generate $1 billion a year, while Sonoma County’s pot business taxes, approved by voters in March, are expected to raise $6 million to start.
Along with taxation comes a labyrinth of regulation, including state and local permitting schemes for growers and other marijuana businesses, while smokers have still limited freedom to savor the psychoactive weed.
You can’t, for example, consume cannabis in public nor carry it openly while driving or riding in a vehicle. And you won’t be able to buy it without a doctor’s recommendation until at least January 2018, when the state expects to begin issuing commercial licenses.
John Hurley, general manager of the Mighty Quinn, a Santa Rosa Avenue smoke shop, said legalization was “not that big a step for California.”
Marijuana was readily available and widely accepted before Proposition 64, taking some of the novelty off Thursday’s occasion, he said. “The jubilation is balanced by the regulation,” Hurley said.
Still, his store, along with other local smoke shops and medical marijuana dispensaries, hopes to make 4/20 memorable.
Mighty Quinn, which sells glass pot pipes and water pipes ranging from $4.99 to $3,000, has a storewide sale Thursday, along with give-aways, a glass-blowing demonstration and a rolling contest using stale pipe and cigarette tobacco, which Hurley said is harder to handle than fresh pot.
Carpenter, the growers’ consultant, said it is “naive and foolish” to consider marijuana legalized in California. Some criminal penalties have been removed, he said, but in many cases they were replaced by civil penalties, along with “explicit restrictions that are even more stringent.”