September 16, 2014
Jokes filled the crisp, foggy early morning air at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. “We’re all number 420! Is that so we don’t get confused?” joked a young man.
“I hope everyone remembers that this is today,” laughed a young woman as she laced up her running shoes.
But, all jokes aside, there were nearly one hundred people gathering outside the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on that chilly morning, and they were there to voluntarily run 3.2 miles at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, all in the name of busting through stereotypes on who is a marijuana consumer.
The 420 Games is the brainchild of Jim McAlpine, the man behind the San Francisco Bay Area snowboard and ski event SnowBomb. The premise is simple – provide an opportunity for responsible, healthy marijuana users to showcase their athleticism while raising money and awareness for the marijuana legalization movement.
From Jeff Spicoli to Cheech and Chong, marijuana consumers have historically been portrayed in the media as lazy, stupid, irresponsible, and with an affinity for sitting on the couch and munching on Doritos.
There were no Cheetos to be found at the 420 games, but participants were offered water (regular and coconut) Cliff bars and bananas, you know, the things people usually ingest before and after exercising. And despite the early start time on a chilly Saturday morning, the runners were excited and proud to support this progressive and reality-based image of marijuana consumers.
Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harborside Health Center gave remarks to the crowd after the race and said that he hopes the 420 Games will be a chance for Olympic level athletes to show their support for ending the stigma around marijuana use. DeAngelo also spoke of the wellness model, which he believes applies to most marijuana consumers.
He mused of a typical situation in American households, where the overworked and underpaid often bring that stress home with them, resulting in poor eating and sleeping habits, and disruption of family bonding. With a little marijuana, he said, suddenly your appetite is back, and you sleep better, and relate to your kids and your spouse in a way that’s less impacted by the stresses of the outside world.
Of course, there are pharmaceutical drugs to address those issues, but often with disruptive and potentially dangerous side effects, not to mention a high risk of dependence.
As I ran in the race, I observed the runners striving to complete the course, some raced through it, and some stopped to walk along the way, but no one gave up.
It reminded me of the wider fight for marijuana legalization. There are setbacks, and hurdles, and times when we are tired and just want to rest. But we don’t, because we believe in what we are doing, and we are determined to make it to the finish line.
Determination, drive and the willingness to get up for an 8 a.m. race on a Saturday is something our opponents do not expect from us.
Let’s continue to prove them wrong.
Amanda Reiman is the manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance.