High Country: 4/20 in the age of CBD
As I am writing this, I am receiving an average of one 4/20-related pitch every three minutes.
The barrage of emails and mailings started about a month ago from publicists hopeful for a mention tied to the upcoming “national holiday.” My desk is cluttered with products like “Stay Sharp … For Daily Brain Function” CBD capsules, “Awareness and Vitality” CBD tincture, a tube of peppermint CBD sublingual spray and a tin of CBD pastilles stamped with the words “inspired, wakeful, and confident.”
I’m distracted. And all I want to do is smoke a joint.
Observed annually on April 20, the essence of 4/20’s counterculture conception has been co-opted and why it’s celebrated has gone way astray. Before I begin, here’s its little-known history:
The term was born in 1971 in Northern California when a group of five San Rafael High School students had heard about an abandoned cannabis crop nearby. Based on a treasure map they discovered along with the rumor, they decided to meet at 4:20 p.m. on campus, share a spliff and set out on their search.
Many failed attempts ensued and they gave up, but continued to convene every day in the same spot for after-school sessions. Known as “The Waldos,” the gang of friends also frequented the Grateful Dead’s early shows in the Bay Area where their meet-up codeword for smoking pot caught on with the audience underground. As the band started touring around the globe, the term “420” spread like fire.
The literal meaning of “420” is to get high. But have you heard about CBD? It’s just CBD! It doesn’t get you high!
Most commonly known and misconceived as the “non-psychoactive” sister compound to THC, CBD is overcrowding and overshadowing the entire cannabis industry. And with the floodgates to hemp cultivation now open from the passage of the U.S. Farm Bill in December, the CBD segment of the market is positioned for exponential expansion. Even the likes of Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are cashing in on cannabis with plans to carry CBD products on shelf in select stores in 2019.
As with any new wellness fad, a media storm of misinformation about CBD has made its way onto everyone’s newsfeeds. But only recently is research emerging shining a light on the fact that CBD is actually psychoactive.
In “Why CBD Works Better With a Little THC (Even If You Don’t Want to Get High),” veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock writes for Leafly, “The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds because the plant’s complex mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids interact synergistically to create an ‘entourage effect’ that enhances each other’s therapeutic effects.”
And a 2016 Project CBD report states, “Researchers have demonstrated that CBD confers antipsychotic, anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), and antidepressant effects. If CBD can relieve anxiety or depression or psychosis, then obviously cannabidiol is a profound mood-altering substance, even if it doesn’t deliver much by way of euphoria. Perhaps it would be better to say that CBD is “not psychoactive like THC,” rather than repeating the familiar and somewhat misleading refrain that “CBD is not psychoactive.”
Guilty and noted.
As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, it now seems to only be about not getting high. Is our society so desperate for a way to cope during such tumultuous times? Of course! As another 4/20 arrives, let’s not forget about the power of the whole plant, plus the decades of prohibition, discrimination, injustice and activism that got us here.
CBD is just a PC conduit for the mainstream to say it’s OK with marijuana. It’s why you can buy a CBD-infused granola bar at Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain, but not take a puff on the patio.
Sure, you can pour CBD oil on your entire life. But unless you’re open to trying THC, too, it’s never going to be the Goop-coated cure-all it’s claimed to be.
Katie Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.
FUN 4/20 FACTS
• Bob Dylan’s legendary “Everybody must get stoned” refrain from “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35” is said to stem from the fact that 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420.
• In 2014, the 420 mile marker on Interstate 70 was stolen so many times that the Colorado Department of Transportation replaced it with a “MILE 419.99” sign.
• Denver holds the record for the “nation’s largest light up,” welcoming 70,000 attendees to Civic Center Park for its Mile High 420 Festival in 2018.
• The clocks and timepieces in “Pulp Fiction” and later in “Lost in Translation“ are all set to 420.
• In 2003, California Senate Bill 420 was introduced to regulate medical marijuana use, in deliberate reference to the status of 420 in marijuana culture. An unsuccessful 2010 bill to legalize cannabis in Guam was called Bill 420.
• In 2019, H.R. 420 was introduced into the 116th Congress, named the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.
• Following the success of Washington D.C.’s Initiative 71 to legalize cannabis in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser granted license plate number 420 to the campaign’s leader, Adam Eidinger.
• The football scoreboard in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” reads 42-0.
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