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420 Hints at Change for Marijuana Advocates

David Perleberg sold pro-marijuana T-shirts at the forum for Monday's secretly located and sold-out event for High Times magazine's annual beauty pageant, for which its sponsor says will "turn the Big Apple into the Baked Apple," The New York Times reported.

Advocates of legal marijuana said this year’s “high holiday,” April 20, the unofficial day of celebration for marijuana, carries extra significance. Momentum toward acceptance of the drug, either as medicine or entertainment, seem to be increasing, they said.

“It is the biggest moment yet,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington. “There’s a sense that the notion of legalizing marijuana is starting to cross the fringes into mainstream debate.” (The New York Times)

From the nation’s statehouses, where more than a dozen legislatures have begun to allow some medical use, to its swimming pools, where Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was largely forgiven, the signs of changes are everywhere.

“We’ve been on national cable news more in the first three months than we typically are in an entire year,” said Bruce Mirken, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, a reform group based in Washington. “And any time you’ve got Glenn Beck and Barney Frank agreeing on something, it’s either a sign that change is impending or that the end times are here.” (The New York Times)

Beneficiaries include Norml, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates legalization. Web traffic and donations, sometimes in $4.20 increments, have surged, according to Norml.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that federal law enforcement resources would not be used to pursue legitimate medical marijuana users and outlets in California and a dozen other states that allow medical use of the drug.

“The balancing act this year is trying to get our most active, most vocal supporters to be more realistic in their expectations in what the Obama administration is going to do,” said Allen F. St. Pierre, executive director of Norml.

For marijuana fans, perhaps the biggest indicator of changing attitudes is how widespread the observance of April 20 has become, including its use in marketing campaigns for movie openings like “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay,” “Super High Me” and “Half Baked."

April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s, in which a group of Northern California teenagers smoked every day at 4:20 p.m. Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. “420” became code for smoking and using it as a sign-off on fliers for concerts where it would be plentiful.

Several colleges have urged students to just say "no" to April 20 events. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, administrators sent an e-mail message this month pleading with students not to “participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of your university and degree.”