Not every innocuous schoolboy joke becomes a worldwide cultural phenomenon, but this one -- 4/20, 4-20, four twenty -- has had legs since it began 41 years ago at San Rafael High in Marin County.
This year, the universal code for marijuana use is being co-opted by everyone's favorite "hacktivist" collective, the masked men and women at Anonymous. The group announced an "operation" for this Friday called Operation Cannabis, stylized as #OpCannabis.
Thus far, websites have been hacked, YouTube videos have been uploaded, and cannabis smokers have been asked to turn their social media profiles green. But what else can we expect?
It may be worthwhile to note that #OpCannabis first appeared on the web last summer, when a pair of YouTube videos claiming association with Anonymous appeared in August. Since then, Anonymous announced Phase 1 of Operation Cannabis last week, with some website hacking announced as Phase 2 over the weekend.
In its latest OpCannabis video, Anonymous decries marijuana's subjugation by the corporate and political establishment, and urges participants in the operation to go visible with turning their social media profiles green. That's not quite like hacking into government websites or shutting down a few BART trains -- two actions Anonymous has been associated with recently.
But it may be enough. And what can the general citizenry do to assist, aside from attend drum circles, visit a favorite medical cannabis dispensary, or flaunt the magic plant?
Some might call this slacktivism -- to sign a petition demanding President Barack Obama undo the War on Drugs, reschedule marijuana, and halt the attacks on state-legal medical marijuana as well as turn their Facebook profiles green for the day. But consider this: Even with the full legal protection offered by medical marijuana states, this is a substance that can get a person removed from employment, disqualify them from housing, and otherwise wreck a life if the authorities so decree.
Would it be so easy if everyone who disagreed with the country's marijuana laws chose to go visible? Considering the movement favoring legalization of marijuana in America appear inching closer to a majority every year, probably not. But the code words used in 1971 to gather teenagers in front of a statue continue today in furtive language and general uneasiness with owning marijuana use. As blogger and activist Mickey Martin put it, marijuana users are still in the closet.
The metaphor is fitting: The modern-day medical marijuana movement was born out of the general LGBT movement, where gay men dying from AIDS found relief in marijuana. That led to Dennis Peron's first cannabis clubs in the Castro District, even before the establishment of the 1996 Compassionate Use Act.
Gay rights only came after LGBT people came out of the closet. Will marijuana follow the same script?
Quite possibly. At the very least, it'll keep the conversation going -- though lately, the federal government's been its own hatchet man.
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