By Ken Krayeske • 4:38 (so I'm a few minutes late...) PM EST
A vintage 1994 pro-pot advocacy sticker in the New Haven train station, photo taken last night.
"If you don't like my fire, then don't come around, 'cause I'm gonna burn one down." Or so sings Ben Harper.
The legend of why the day is special to cannabis culture remains a mystery - a day of many origins. But the fact of the matter is that the time is upon the United States to change the drug laws.
Last night I was in the train station in New Haven, and I spotted the sticker above. When I realized that it was 15 years old, I began to think about what was happening 15 years prior to that. In 1979, the Carter administration had beaten a hasty retreat from its drug policy reforms, based on the NORML/cocaine in the White House scandal.
In 1979, the Rockefeller drug laws were just six years old. In 2009, they have been repealed. Finally.
The worst parts of the Reagan "Just Say No!" war on drugs, the excessive arrests, the boom of the prison industrial economy was not really in gear in 1979.
Come 1994, when the marijuana rally on this sticker was scheduled, President "I didn't inhale" Clinton was on pace to arrest as many marijuana smokers as Reagan and Bush. He was to hire a drug czar who likely committed war crimes in Iraq. What are the civil rights of non-violent consensual criminals?
So, today, on 420 Day, we must celebrate progress. In 2006, Cliff Thornton's Green Party campaign for governor, couldn't get a place in the statewide debates because of political prejudice. (objectivity alert - I ran Cliff's campaign).
Yet in 2009, Democratic Sen. Martin Looney of New Haven has advocated strongly enough for a decriminalization bill to get out of committee. Of course, our matronly Gov. Rell would never sign such a progressive step (which is why we need someone in 2010 who will).
And of course, the decrim bill has its faults. Sale and grow operations remain felonies - so how do you get weed if not buying or cultivating? And decrim does not remove the serious penalties for paraphernalia. But it is a step.
Nonetheless, when we look at the spectrum of events during the past few years, we can only see progress. In 1994, not a single state had passed a medical marijuana bill. In 2009, we have more than a dozen states with active mmj laws on the books.
The fight is not close to won, however. President Obama has failed to live up to his campaign promises to date and respect the science surrounding medical marijuana. While his attorney general Eric Holder has indicated that the Department of Justice will not prosecute dispensaries unless they violate state and federal law.
The New Yok Times today takes a similar look at the pending changes in the air. A friend of mine was saying that hey, tough economic times sometimes can portend radical changes that might not happen otherwise.
In the meantime, burn one down, and never give up.