April 20 has been an informal holiday for cannabis enthusiasts for years, but "420" seems to be going mainstream. In addition to the celebratory clouds of odoriferous smoke in cities such as Denver, Seattle, and Portland, Canada's new government used the opportunity to announce plans for recreational cannabis legalization.
Last year, now-Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made cannabis legalization a high-profile campaign promise. Then, after Trudeau's Liberal Party won the election, Trudeau called legalization a low priority and pundits noted that Canada's international drug treaty obligations might make legalization a tough sell in Canada's Parliament.
Last week, Trudeau's government announced that it would introduce its legalization bill this time next year, in spring 2017. On April 20, Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott told the United Nations General Assembly that the new law will keep cannabis away from children and stop criminals from profiting from cannabis sales. This mirrors the goals set forth in Oregon's legalization laws. "We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem," said Philpott.
Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada, but illegal dispensaries have proliferated recently. Although details of the legalization proposal are as yet unannounced, it is expected the Canadian government will be given power to rein in illegal operations and regulate all aspects of the medical and recreational markets.
Last year, Mexico's Supreme Court found that laws making it illegal to produce, possess, and personally consume cannabis are unconstitutional. When Canada's actions are viewed in conjunction with Mexico's, it may not be long before the U.S. is playing catch-up on cannabis policy with its neighbors.
The Obama administration made its own 420 news last week with the announcement that it will meet with D.C. Marijuana Justice (DCMJ), the group responsible for cannabis legalization in the nation's capital. Media outlets called the meeting groundbreaking and many are speculating that Obama may be considering re-scheduling cannabis in his final days in office after all.
This year's 420 also saw an epic fail by Snapchat, which added a Bob Marley filter that gives the user's face pic a Rastafarian hat, dreadlocks, and a darker skin tone. It was considered by many to be inappropriate and Snapchat received heavy criticism, but stood by the filter as a tribute to Marley.