SEATTLE (AP) – From Capitol Hill to Hippie Hill, marijuana enthusiasts observed their 4/20 holiday Thursday with public smoke-outs, parties and, yes, great deals on weed.
Before the clock even hit 4:20 p.m., there were arrests in the nation’s capital, as police took seven people into custody at a demonstration that involved handing out joints to congressional staff.
Pot fans in Los Angeles went for a cannabis-fueled hike, and in Portland, Maine, a local author spent the afternoon giving away more than 200 grams of marijuana to a long line of fans.
The annual celebration of cannabis culture gave activists an opportunity to reflect on how far they’ve come – recreational use of marijuana is now legal in eight states and the nation’s capital – and on the national political tone, with Trump administration officials reprising talking points from the heyday of the war on drugs.
“We’re looking at an attorney general who wants to bring America back into the 1980s in terms of drug policy,” said Vivian McPeak, a founder of Hempfest in Seattle. “I’m skeptical they can put the cannabis genie back into the bottle.”
President Donald Trump hasn’t clarified what his approach to marijuana will be, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes the drug’s legalization and this month ordered a review of the government’s marijuana policy, which has included a largely hands-off approach in legal marijuana states.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently called marijuana “a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs” – a view long held by drug warriors despite scant evidence of its validity.
This year’s 4/20 party follows successful legalization campaigns in California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, which joined Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington as states that allow recreational marijuana. More than half of all states now allow medical marijuana.
In California, which voted to legalize marijuana last fall, tens of thousands of people were expected at events ranging from marijuana cooking classes to the annual bacchanal on Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Though there were plenty of nighttime events planned, about two dozen pot fans in the Los Angeles area opted for a morning celebration, gathering around 9 a.m. at a trailhead in the Altadena foothills for “High’ke,” a 2.5-mile trek that promised joints to everyone who made it to the 5,600-foot peak of Mount Lowe.
Anna Acosta, 49, said she hoped to revel in the “camaraderie of being out in nature with a bunch of nature-loving, tree-loving, like-minded people.”
Pot shops in some legal marijuana states were offering discounts. In Alaska, though, regulators put a damper on promotions, warning retail shops about an “alarming amount of social media advertisements for 4/20 celebrations” that violate state rules against certain activities, such as games or competitions, that encourage pot sales.
James Barrett, a co-owner of the Rainforest Farms retail store in downtown Juneau said his company pulled its sponsorship of a cannabis celebration to avoid running afoul of the rules.
A shop in Seattle was hosting a block party, and a nearby sex-toy business was offering a class about how marijuana can improve intimate relations.
Legalization opponents weren’t going quietly. Smart Approaches to Marijuana said drug policy experts and elected leaders convened in Atlanta for a summit featuring Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar under President Bill Clinton, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.
“Smart drug policy starts with science and research, not ideology or profit,” McCaffrey said in a news release from the organization. Smart Approaches to Marijuana “embodies this belief by advocating for common-sense laws that protect American families and communities from the social and health consequences of marijuana legalization.”
Sixty percent of adults support legalizing marijuana, according to a Gallup poll last fall, and two-thirds of respondents in a Yahoo/Marist poll released this week said marijuana is safer than opioids – even when those painkillers are prescribed by doctors.
Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Washington, D.C.; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.