'420' fosters unity through drugs
MARIJUANA: Tolerance, togetherness celebrated yearly on Kerckhoff lawn
By Chris Trombley
Thursday, April 19, 2001
UCLA offers many opportunities to fulfill one's sense of ambition, but the
best memories are the ones that make a lasting impression on the mind. My
first year at school taught me many things about standards, diversity of
life and the different ways people pursue happiness. Most of all, this
institution has taught me tolerance, not so much of people who look or act
differently, but of people who think differently.
There are over 35,000 people on this campus, all of whom grew up in various
places with different kinds of teachers. The diversity of life experiences
creates an environment with a wide variety of thoughts and opinions on any
subject. And it is through our acceptance of this fact that we can open
our minds to the ideas of others, even when we do not agree with their views.
April 20 is a perfect example of this. To many, marijuana is something with
very negative connotations and consequences. In the early 1930s, Hearst
newspapers initiated open attacks on cannabis claiming unsubstantiated
facts, which created a public backlash against marijuana. In 1937, it was
classified as a narcotic and subjected to strict government control. It has
since been deemed wrong by many and even evil by extremists.
But many others continue to illegally use pot. They find the relaxing
effects of the drug to be soothing and enjoyable, and will usually exercise
moderation when deciding to smoke.
And of course there are those in the middle who do not have strong opinions
either way as to what people do with their own bodies. This type of
tolerance is represented by "420," along with the right to display your own
For one day all the marijuana smokers, students, TAs, teachers and
university officials alike venture
out to sit on the bright green lawn in front of Kerckhoff to enjoy a
beautiful spring day with hundreds of friends
and bags and bags of the best chronic this country can produce.
If you have seen this event before, it is a vision you can hardly forget.
Over 300 fellow Bruins sit packed
together, red-eyed and laughing, while an enormous cloud of white,
skunk-like smoke hangs overhead.
Students from all walks of life sit on the grass talking, gazing at
passers-by and of course, inhaling
large amounts of sticky, sticky greens.
Every single person on that hill feels the awe of obviously smoking ganja
right in the middle of campus. And everyone comes prepared.
Some tote plush bags, which open to reveal $300 color changing glass bongs
with dual chambers and anti-lock brakes. Conventional smokers burn finger
sized joints and "Garcia y Vega" blunts until their index fingers have
third degree burns.
My favorite is the gas mask, which uses a tube coming out of the mouthpiece
connected to an acrylic bong. When the smoker was asked last year where he
bought his gas mask he responded, "Rrffmph nrmph gowlif." Its difficult to
speak while wearing a gas mask.
On the lawn, every race, gender and sexual orientation is represented while
participants enjoy a day away from the stress of school, girlfriends,
boyfriends, parents and, of course, police. And the best part is no one
seems to mind.
Most of the non-participants walk idly by and giggle about "a funny smell"
or just don't even notice the giant plume of smoke engulfing the campus.
But for the participants, the day is as perfect as they come.
The only facet of "420" I am consistently displeased with are the annoying
speakers who take it upon themselves to speak for the whole group about how
pot being illegal violates our individual rights. These few would yell and
scream about how we need to stand up and protest this travesty. Such
nonsense is ridiculous and does not correspond to the theme of the day.
We make our statement by sitting in a public place and doing the illegal
thing we love to do. This is not the day to fight the powers that be and
start a revolt against prohibition. Save the protests for another day and
come rip this bong, "mon ami."
I must say, it does seem weird that we can sit on campus and smoke bowl
after bowl without any CSO rent-a-cop or university official coming out to
disperse the crowd. And this is exactly the reason this day is so revered.
It's a UCLA counterculture tradition that is amazing in and of itself, much
like Midnight Yell. Unfortunately, the 5-0 have taken that tradition away
from us, perhaps even for a good reason (flaming beds are entertaining, but
not exactly safe). But they have yet to infringe on this event and, God
willing, it will stay that way. Tolerance is an enormous concept and I am
ecstatic to attend a school that uses it in such a positive manner.
So, when Friday comes, don't get mad because people are doing something
illegal or against your beliefs. Be excited that when you want to
demonstrate your beliefs and opinions, you have an open forum on this
campus to do so.
And for the rest, come relax with me I'll be the one wearing the gas mask.
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