420

Part 2 of DNA's blog posts for their week-long Transcending Taboo event, by Rosie Cannon

Happy 420

Within recent times there have been some interesting developments in cannabis legislation, with Mexico set to be the next country to join the list of ever-growing nations to legalise recreational marijuana use. However, in the UK, we appear a good while away from being able to legally purchase weed for recreational use, with the Liberal Democrats being one of the only large parties to support legalisation. The Lib Dems outline in their manifesto the benefits that come with legalisation, arguing that it could raise around £1 billion in tax which they would spend on crime prevention and tackling the climate crisis. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has also spoken about the topic before, claiming the UK needs to rethink its drug policies. It’s not hard to see why the Lib Dems are pushing this agenda so hard; research suggests that legalising marijuana could have huge social benefits. Currently, the illicit nature of weed means people have to source their product from unethical and potentially dangerous suppliers and this can lead to further unlawful activities. Through legalisation, however, we could see a huge reduction in crime levels as markets no longer have to operate covertly and in dangerous circumstances. This would then take huge pressure off the police and hugely overwhelmed prison systems, allowing the legal system to focus on far more pressing issues.

Amber Moore is a senior researcher and policy officer at the conservative drug policy reform group and her research outlines some of the pressing impacts of prohibition within the UK as well as how to bring about change. On the 20th of April at 6:00 pm, Amber will be attending a virtual speaker’s conference to discuss her ideas and research. So, if policy reform in the UK is something you are interested in check out Royal Holloway’s Drug and Alcohol Campaign’s Facebook page for a link to the tickets for this free event!

You might notice that the date of this event coincides with 420- where marijuana users around the globe celebrate the drug and protest its illegality in true stoner style. Every year thousands flock to sights like Hyde Park to embrace the tradition. And so, it is most definitely not a coincidence that Amber Moore’s talk coincides with this day! When writing this article, I looked into how the term 420 was coined, and the story (despite sounding like it came straight out of an 80s movie) is a must-hear. It starts with a group of five teenagers, who called themselves ‘The Waldos’. One day at school, the kids heard about a cannabis plant abandoned by its owner and they made it their mission to hunt down this free weed. The term 420 became a way to talk about their search in secret as 4:20 was the time they would meet after school to start their search again. Sadly, the Waldos never found the forbidden fruit but their legacy lived on; the Waldos had connections to the band The Grateful Dead, who eventually referred to it in some of their songs, leading to fans adopting the term too. I personally love this story because it epitomises the community spirit so intrinsic to recreational marijuana use, the five friends… the spreading of the term- it really is iconic and so I hope that this 420, you will think of the Waldos and their mystical plant.

Get your free tickets here!