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420 attracts small group of pot devotees

Rain and cold keeps the crowd away
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420 participants take shelter in the old Johnston Hall portico on the U of G campus. Rob O'Flanagan/GuelphToday

The damp and chilly conditions weren’t ideal for pot smoking. Nevertheless, several spliffs were sparked at 4:20 p.m. on the 20th day of the fourth month, as the annual 420 celebration of weed happened on the grounds of the University of Guelph.

A protest, a show of camaraderie and solidarity, an act of defiance, and a reason to get high, 420 is observed around the world on Apr. 20. Johnston Green on campus has been the setting in Guelph for some time.

Last year, a great crowd of reefer advocates turned up, and about six years ago the green was packed with people. But only about 20 took part on Thursday, many kept back by the rain and cold.

Those who did come out huddled inside the old Johnston Hall portico, helping each other achieve blazing status.

Until the federal government legalizes marijuana use, something that is planned for 2018, smoking pot for recreational reasons remains illegal.

For now, 420 remains an act of defiance of the law. Many at Thursday’s event did not want their names used when approached by, for fear of legal repercussions or being judged.

A U of G philosophy student who asked not to be named said there is still a general bias and misconception about drug use in North America, even towards naturally occurring ones like marijuana. That bias continues to hamper the legalization process, and brands pot users as irresponsible and escapist, he indicated. 

While a great many great minds have used LSD, pot and mushrooms to explore the potential of their minds, drug use remains an activity that is generally not supported in society, he said.

A young woman at 420 said pot calms her down. She said she doesn’t need to be calmed down, but just likes the feeling from time to time.

She didn’t want her name used because, she said, she didn’t want to face the stigma of being a “stoner,” and because of the continued illegality of smoking pot.

One participant referenced the marijuana situation in Colorado, where he said it’s legalization has strengthened the state economy, decreased the use of hard drugs and drunk driving. Similar benefits could result from legalizing pot in Canada, he said.