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Bill to legalize pot nationwide conveniently numbered 420

CBD is a naturally occurring chemical in the cannabis plant. | Sun-Times Archives

Rep. Earl Blumenaer, an Oregon Democrat, introduced House Resolution 420, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana. | Sun-Times Archives

Legislation introduced Wednesday to end the federal prohibition of cannabis was filed as House Resolution 420, a cheeky nod to the numerals most associated with stony smoke breaks and marijuana’s high holiday of April 20.

“While the bill number may be a bit tongue in cheek, the issue is very serious,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives.”

Blumenauer submitted the bill — dubbed the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act — amid the ongoing government shutdown, which has now stretched into its 20th day. The proposal would remove weed from the list of drugs outlined in the federal Controlled Substances Act and create a regulatory system that would be overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which would also be renamed to include marijuana.

“Congress can’t continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support,” said Blumenauer.

A Gallup poll conducted last October found that 66 percent of Americans now support cannabis legalization. Additionally, separate polls conducted over the past two years by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale showed that roughly two-thirds of Illinois voters favor legal weed.

In the coming weeks, Illinois Democrats plan to introduce new legislation to legalize recreational pot across the state. Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on a pro-legalization platform, has pledged his support for the effort.

While the roots of 420 lore have become a cause for debate, many credit a group of stoners from northern California with coining the phrase in 1971. The group, who called themselves “The Waldos,” would meet outside San Rafael High School at 4:20 p.m. before getting stoned and searching for an elusive pot patch.

Although they never found the weed, the phrase 420 became a widely used code for pot use.