420 Friendly: The Rule Rather Than Exception

Tax Revenue From Marijuana Legalization

As Washington struggles to find a solution to the fiscal crisis now in swing, several states have found a way to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana in their state which has the potential to bring billions in revenue to states struggling to meet their own budgetary concerns. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank Huff Post reports, the federal legalization of marijuana would offer large new revenue streams that could potentially relieve some of financial strains on the federal budget. Carol Davis, a senior analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy told the Huff Post that, “We don’t know the size of the marijuana market right now, and we certainly don’t know what would happen to the price and the demand for marijuana under different levels of legalization. But we do know that legalization would lead to a positive revenue impact on the income and sales tax side.”According to a 2010 study, legalizing the drug would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue annually assuming that it would be taxed similar to alcohol and tobacco as well as the income earned by pot producers to standard income and sales tax.

Besides federal benefits, according to the study, states and local governments stand to save billions on the current spending regulating marijuana use. The state of Washington estimates it will generate $1.9 billion in additional revenue in five years due to the legalization, while eighteen states and Washington D.C. have already legalized medicinal marijuana and another 10 are currently considering legislation according to the National Cannabis Industry Association. A recent Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans support the legalization of weed, however opponents argue that fiscal benefits are outweighed by social impact such as violence, crime and social disintegration according to a Heritage Foundation report.

Could the United States become a 420 friendly society? Possibility but with restrictions. What does 420 friendly mean? Well I have often wondered about the origins and had look no further than Huff Post. Depending on who you ask and how coherent they are, the answers range from the number of active chemicals in weed to teatime in Holland to even yes Hitler’s birthday according to Huff Post. The origin of the term celebrated by pot enthusiasts around the world on April 20 has been lost in the smoke filled memories of the people who created it. The Huff Post has actually traced the origins back to a Point Reyes, California forest where it turns out it not only started but explains how it spread. High Times, a marijuana focused magazine, published the story that the term 420 came from police code in San Rafael, California in the 1970s where the police began to use it to refer to marijuana and from there spread. However the true story does start in San Rafael, but involves five San Rafael High School friends known as Waldos as they hung out at a wall outside the school coined the term in 1971. Today the code appears in pop culture and mainstream like in Pulp Fiction, Price is Right, Craigslist postings and in 2003 when California Legislature codified medicinal marijuana under the bill named SB420.

The Waldos have proof that they used the term in the early 70s speaking with Huff Post and prefering to stay with the names Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave, Waldo Mark, etc. as pot was still illegal in 2009 when the interview took place. California since then has decriminalized possession making the fine a little more than a parking ticket as medicinal marijuana shops have popped up all over the state and weed is not so taboo. In 2012, their story was told by Huff Post to set the record straight about the origins and spread of the term 420. The story begins in 1971 when the Waldos got word that a Coast Guard service member could not tend his marijuana plants anymore near Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard Station, so the group with a treasure map decided to find the free bud. The Waldos would meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside school at 4:20 p.m. after practice to begin their hunt. The group would remind each other to meet up at 4:20 to search for the treasure and were unsuccessful in their first couple of searches. The group would take a ride out to Point Reyes at 4:20 smoking the entire way week after week, but never actually found the patch. The group adopted the codeword to used around school and parents to hide the fact they were smoking pot.

As they continued to use the term, eventually luck would have it that the term would spread farther than they could ever imagine thanks to the Grateful Dead. As San Francisco’s hippie utopia collapses and miscreants took over The Haight, the Grateful Dead packed up and moved to Marin County hills just blocks from their high school. Beside the geographic location, several of the guys had connections to the Dead through family like Mark Gravitch’s father who took care of real estate, Dave Reddix’s older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with the bassist Phil Lesh. Patrick Reddix recalls to Huff Post that he smoked with Lesh but couldn’t recall if he used the term 420 around him but must have. The Dead, recalls Dave Reddix, had a rehearsal space on Front Street, San Rafael, California and they used to practice there. The friends would hang out listening to the music and smoking making it possible that Patrick spread the term to Phil Lesh as well as Dave himself while hanging with Lesh. As the Grateful Dead toured through the 70’s and 80’s playing hundreds of shows per year, the term spread through the underground and once High Times picked up on it the magazine made the term global. The Waldos say it took a few years for the term to spread but by the early 90’s were hearing it all over San Rafael, even in unexpected places such as Ohio, Florida and Canada as well as spotting the digits on signs and park benches.

In 1998, the Waldos set the record straight and got in touch with High Times even presenting evidence to back up their story. Stashed away in a San Fransisco bank vault, Reddix, Gravitch, Capper and Patty Young have kept a flag with the 420 stitched on it, letters, newspaper clipping and other pieces of memorabilia Huff Post reports. The men are still excited to this day about their impact on international subculture as the group is considering doing a documentary about their experience, a dictionary of slang and whatever else might come their way.

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