Connecticut medical pot activists set 4/20 as "Hemp Day" to rally the troops

Some advocates of the medical marijuana legislation now winding its way through the Connecticut General Assembly are organizing a state “Hemp Day” on 4/20 (as in Friday April 20th) to help drum up support for the bill.

The event at Hartford’s West Indian Social Club is being sponsored by Aaron Romano’s Hartford-area law firm and Island Cuisine, a local Jamaican restaurant, and is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m.

The whole “4:20” thing originally started out in California as high school pot-head slang for a time to meet to do some dope, according to this Huffington Post account. And April 20 has become something of an unofficial marijuana holiday.

But organizers of this month’s Connecticut event insist they want this to be more than simply a day to celebrate weed.

“We’re trying to create a broader awareness of the benefits of medical marijuana,” says Romano, who describes the goal as being “to de-stigmatize” cannabis in the eyes of the general public.

Another of the organizers is Wasine Mark, a long-time volunteer and activist within the Caribbean community. “We want to bring more to this argument than just ‘We want to some and be happy,’ ” Mark says.

“I think people associate marijuana with something derogatory” and have forgotten how natural and beneficial its use can be,” he says. In Jamaica, Mark says, “We place a high value on natural medicine and living in the natural world.”

“Why are we championing [medical drug] products that have huge side effects and demonizing another product like marijuana that has so few side effects?” he asks. 

Romano says advocates of medical pot in Connecticut absolutely don’t want this state to copy the free-wheeling system that’s brought controversy and federal busts of dispensaries in California. He says that West Coast approach has created a “very negative perception of what medical marijuana is all about.”

Erik Williams, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says his non-profit group will participate in the April 20th event.

“We’re going to be there to educate people… and to rally the troops to help push the medical marijuana legislation through,” Williams says. “This is an opportunity to take a day that’s been sort of a holiday, a freedom day and turn that passion into activism.”

The medical pot bill has cleared one key legislative panel and now appears headed for the General Assembly’s Finance Committee.

This legislation looks like it has a way better chance of final approval, in large part because Gov. Dannel Malloy appears likely to back the measure. In 2011, Malloy signed into law a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot.

A few years ago, state lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill only to have it axed by a veto from then-Gov.M. Jodi Rell, who claimed it would “send the wrong message” about drug use to young people.

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