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What is 420 and Does it Mark a "New Era" for Legalized Marijuana this Year?

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 20, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Today is April 20, or 4/20, which is no big deal right? Well, that might depend on your point of view, and maybe even your state of mind. If, as a New York Times story suggests, you are a "marijuana fan" then today just happens to be the unofficial day (and/or hour) of celebration for your product of choice (see one version of the history on the term). On the other hand, if you are in law enforcement, today is likely a day calling for greater vigilance and crackdowns to prevent any unwanted consequences or fallout from 420 "festivities" (which would apparently include "campus smoke-outs, concerts and cannabis festivals").

Regardless of anyone's take on the day itself however, the N.Y. Times piece did call attention to the possibility that the legalization of marijuana has arguably been gaining momentum, and that this 420, as one event sponsor put it, "will 'turn the Big Apple into the Baked Apple and help us usher in a new era of marijuana freedom in America.'" But is that really so?

Despite any hooplah and/or jubilees, any wholesale legalization of marijuana is probably a long, long way off, if it is in the cards at all. However, what does appear to be happening is that states are increasingly moving towards allowing certain specified uses of medical marijuana. According to a USA Today report last month, the states' moves have been triggered by the Obama administration's decision to seek "criminal charges only when both state and U.S. laws are violated." This is directly contrary to the Bush administration's policy, which was to enforce federal laws entirely prohibiting marijuana use, regardless of what a state's law said on the subject.

As a result, for the thirteen states that currently allow medical use of the drug, legitimate users under such states' laws might fairly celebrate a "new era" on this 4/20. Furthermore, other states' legislators, perhaps encouraged by the administration's move, are starting to consider similar legislation legalizing medical use of pot. Lastly, some states have moved to reduce penalties for marijuana-related offenses. Below are some links to more information on the subject of medical marijuana and related laws.

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