Facing a Decision on 4/20

To smoke or not to smoke, that is the question



"One time I got so high, I had an out-of-body experience. We were smoking marijuana out of a gravity bong which was comprised of a two-liter bottle and a huge plastic tub. I don't even remember clearing the chamber when all of a sudden I was riding around the room looking down on my body. While I could still hear everyone as if they were right next to me, I couldn't hop back in my body to save my life. That's when I saw someone walk in and say, 'Who's this dead girl you've got in here?'" — SE

April 20 is just a few days away and you know what that means: Weed week! Considered a national holiday in some circles, 4/20 is a day that recreational users celebrate the consumption of marijuana. According to Wikipedia and HuffPost, that the concept was born when a group of high school kids referred to as the Waldos decided to meet up at their fave spot to smoke pot at 4:20 every day in 1971.

Not surprising at all given the timeframe; we're all familiar with hippies, right? Nevertheless, 4/20 has become the holiday for pot smokers and their allies. News outlets break out their favorite recipes, stories and events focused on 4/20 activities.

"The first time I encountered marijuana use in public in the Q.C. was in a music venue. I was shocked that no one seemed to hide what they were doing. What was crazier, no one was getting arrested." — BE

As I was riding dirty on the light rail on Monday — no I wasn't carrying marijuana, I was riding the light rail without a ticket because the machines were broken — I started thinking back on the first time I heard about marijuana. I couldn't remember. I'm sure I watched one of those instructional videos on the effects of drug use in middle school or high school, but I couldn't remember the first time one of my friends alluded to using it, or when I decided it wasn't a "big deal" to me.

"The benefits of marijuana in conjunction with autism are astronomical! I would love to be able to give [my child] real cannabis oil for his autism." — FM

My parents have always been what many would call "helicopter parents" and never condoned the use of any drug, including alcohol. They warned about the dangers of "gateway drugs" and how the best advice they could give was never to get wrapped up in any of it. And I can honestly say since having those conversations with them as a child, it was the best advice anyone could give. Even the stranger I chatted with at Tin Roof made a point to say that while he felt weed should be legalized, every person is built and reacts differently.

Television stations like Viceland, my favorite for binge-watching such shows as "Desus and Mero," regularly explore all facets of marijuana, especially during Weed Week. From exploring the stories of addicts who may have started out smoking marijuana to the small pot farmer in California to world-renowned chefs cultivating cannabis-infused delights and medical marijuana facilities, there's little we haven't heard when it comes to Mary Jane.

As a 26-year-old graduate of what many consider a "party school," and experiencing nightlife professionally as an adult, I'm very well aware of the ways in which drugs have become a norm. I've lost friends to more dangerous drugs than marijuana. I've seen other friends go to jail for years for possession of marijuana. But I've also seen the benefits of cannabis for friends and families struggling with autism, cancer and Parkinson's. That's why I understand how the question of "to smoke or not to smoke" has become a critical debate.

I polled my friends on Facebook and I know that the majority of them would be paranoid about weighing in. But for those who did, it was clear the consensus was yes, smoke. Whether the argument was along the lines of "other drugs are more harmful, including alcohol," or "there are many benefits from a medical perspective," these are conversations ready to be had.

The landscape of drug use, marijuana, in particular, is changing rapidly. A full 28 U.S. states and D.C. have laws legalizing marijuana in one shape or form. North Carolina rejoined the conversation this year as legislators began taking another look at legalizing medical marijuana. As I reflect on my experience throughout college and in Charlotte nightlife, I'm left with the questions of how legislation can help us all move forward in a positive way.

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