'420 Day': Why weed smokers think Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions could spoil their party

'420': How Jeff Sessions plans to take the fight to medical marijuana

The US Attorney General is keen to crack down on drugs

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Today marks '420 Day', the high holiday of cannabis culture, with smokers celebrating across the US and even giving out free joints to members of Congress.

The reason stoners venerate the number 420 isn't exactly clear. Some think it's due to a scientific code number for cannabis; others think it's because a group of pioneering herb enthusiasts used to light up at 4.20pm every day. But whatever the reason, '420' is now the magic number for marijuana enthusiasts across America, and thus is celebrated on April 20 - or 4/20, to give it the standard American abbreviation.

But amidst the haze of their revelry, the cheshire cat grins and the ridiculous conversations, many stoners across America will be wondering how long they can continue to celebrate April 20.

Why? Well because of two people: Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. These two men are probably the last people most smokers would invite to share a joint with them, and they've adopted a predictably tough line on weed since taking office. 

Sessions is seeking to introduce new laws to punish people caught with the drug, and in a press conference on Tuesday said marijuana forms a key part of “criminal enterprises”. In the past, he has called medical applications of the drug “hyped.”

The controversial judge is simply reflecting his administration's tough line on marijuana. Although Trump pledged to respect state legislation on weed during his campaign, his press secretary Sean Spicer has since said a "greater enforcement" is likely.

Against this likely crackdown, smokers are pinning their hopes on a budget amendment which was introduced in 2003 but took a further nine years to become law, after being defeated six times. Named the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, it prevents the US government from pursuing people who are following their state's laws in relation to cannabis. 

In layman's terms, this means that someone smoking pot for medicinal purposes in a state like Colorado, or recreational purposes in a state like California, can do freely without worrying about the consequences, as these states have legalised marijuana for such uses. Given that marijuana is recreationally legal in eight US states and medicinally legal in almost 20 more, it's clear that Mr Trump will be curbing the rights of a huge number of people if he wishes to impose a crackdown.

Because it's a budget amendment, rather than an actual law, Rohrabacher-Farr has to be renewed every year. It's up for renewal right now, in fact, and campaigners are urging lawmakers to do the necessary - hence the mass joint giveaway outside Congress in Washington today.

But, if they can't force the renewal of this protective blanket, Trump and Sessions will smell blood. Sessions has already suggested the government retains the power to crack down on marijuana in individual states - even if the drug's been legalised. And given the government has designated marijuana as a Class A drug, the same as heroin, anyone who defies the will of Trump/Sessions is likely to face severe consequences.

Sessions may be many things, but easily deterred isn't one of them. Even if Rohrabacher-Farr is renewed, don't exact Trump's favourite attack dog - or Trump himself, to give up easily.