Thousands puff for legal pot at 4/20 parties throughout US
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Marlene Manning was glad to be back in her native California on Wednesday for an annual 4/20 celebration, where reggae music played loudly and the smell of weed pervaded.
The 50-year-old real estate agent just relocated from Florida, where "everything is against the law," she joked. She wasn't partaking, but she joined thousands of others at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park who were enjoying an annual marijuana-ingesting event to the fullest.
"It's freedom," said Manning, pushing a stroller with her 6-month-old granddaughter on the periphery of the gathering on "Hippie Hill." They passed by empty bocce ball courts and young adults wearing tie-dyed shirts. "This is so refreshing."
Fans of the drug have long marked April 20 as a day to roll weed or munch on pot-laced brownies — especially at 4:20 p.m. — and call for increased legal access to it.
This year's celebrations throughout the U.S. come amid loosening of marijuana restrictions and increasing tolerance for the plant's use from Alaska to Massachusetts.
It could be the last unofficial pot holiday on which users have to call for legalization in California, with a pot initiative expected on the November ballot. The drug's use for medical purposes got approved in 1996.
Voters in Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts also are expected to consider marijuana legalization measures. And the Vermont Legislature is discussing a proposal to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce.
Recreational use already is legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
In Anchorage, Alaska, a downtown marijuana pot club has scheduled a "420 Blaze Party" in a state where recreational use is legal but sales of weed aren't until later this summer.
"We're a private club, we're an events club and our members can consume their own product," said one of the owners, Theresa Collins. The club is offering a free shuttle home for attendees.
Police in Burlington, Vermont, said several hundred gathered on the University of Vermont campus to celebrate. In New Hampshire, dozens of people smoked marijuana on the Statehouse lawn in Concord.
Several Las Vegas marijuana businesses held grand opening ceremonies, including the Cannabis Chapel, which offered customers a pot-themed wedding package complete with a silk cannabis bouquet — all for $104.20. Nevada voters legalized medical marijuana use in 2000, but it wasn't until 2013 that lawmakers created rules allowing for dispensaries.
One new dispensary, Blum, opened its pristine shop Wednesday in a gritty industrial park a few blocks from the Las Vegas Strip. Dispensaries are banned in the tourist corridor, so owners are banking on shuttles to bring them some of the more than 40 million who visit the city each year.
The origins of the number 420 as a code for marijuana are murky. The most accepted version is rooted in a public high school in Marin County, California, across the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco.
There, a group of 1970s high school students say they coined the number as code for the time to meet after school to toke up.
Associated Press writers Lisa Rathke in Burlington, Vermont, Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco, Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas and Kathleen Ronayne in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this report.