Marijuana legalisation advocates across the country are expected to light up during Tuesday's (20 April) annual observance of 4/20, the celebration-cum-mass civil disobedience derived from "420" - insider shorthand for cannabis consumption.
IGrow, a 3-month-old cultivation equipment emporium, got a 24-hour jump start on the festivities by sponsoring a "420 Eve" festival Monday afternoon.
Several hundred revelers lined up outside the 1,400-square-meter shop - security guards kept them at bay until
4:20 pm - waiting for the chance to revel in their drug of choice's rising commercial clout.
Inside the gates, they perused booths stocked with pipe-shaped lollipops and specialty fertilisers, entered a medical marijuana delivery service's raffle for an oversized joint and toured a 16m portable grow room with a starting price of $60,000.
Consumption on site
"I wouldn't have thought we would be able to consume on site," marveled John Corral, 19, of San Jose, after he obtained a wristband that gave him access to the event's two "vapor lounges," one inside a stretch Hummer parked outside and another inside a companion Range Rover limousine.
Two years ago, before he had a doctor's recommendation to smoke pot, Corral commemorated 4/20 on Hippie Hill, the Golden Gate Park promontory where an earlier generation of pot aficionados made their stand.
IGrow has arranged to have a doctor working at the store three days a week to evaluate people seeking to become medical marijuana patients, and a handful of those at the 420 Eve party were able to snag last-minute appointments.
Reform of Marijuana Laws
Allen St Pierre, executive director of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the drug's
steady movement from counterculture indulgence to mainstream acceptance will be evident elsewhere in the United States Tuesday, when four cable television channels have scheduled "a good chunk of programming to 420."
St Pierre said that with the terms "marijuana" or "cannabis" regularly showing up on the top Internet searches and a measure to legalise the plant's recreational use appearing on as many as four state ballots in November, it's clear that groups like his, which has lobbied to decriminalize marijuana since 1970, are no longer blowing smoke.
"There is a large mainstreaming of all of this," he said. "Some of it is happening because of natural forces and some of it is happening because commercial entities looking to comport with local social mores and values are taking advantage of this bizarre numerology."
The lure of revenue and respectability has prompted some veterans of the marijuana wars to diversify. Joshua Freeman, a Sonoma County pot grower, was at the 420 Eve festival handing out samples of the specialty plant food he recently developed and is trying to market.
"We are not just a bunch of stoners sitting back on a couch playing video games," Freeman said. - (LISA LEFF/Sapa, April 2010)