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4/20 Day: Expert says stigma against pot in Indiana is dying off

A marijuana plant. (Shutterstock via CNN)

(WIBC) — Saturday, April 20, is a symbolic day for people throughout the country who support the use of marijuana. It’s 4/20 Day.

“4/20 is the unofficial marijuana liberation day,” said Keith Johnson with Indiana NORML on “Indy Politics.” “It started back in the ’70s.”

More specifically, 4/20 has its origins in California where a group of high school students would cut class at 4:20 in the afternoon to go try and find an abandoned marijuana plant based on a treasure map by the grower. Their story was published years later by High Times magazine, which popularized their story and thus the term and date “4/20” entered the mainstream.

Here in Indiana, marijuana is still completely illegal even though state after state elsewhere begins to loosen their collective grip on the drug. Johnson and Indiana NORML lobby state lawmakers to legalize it.

“We had 8½ decades of propaganda (against pot) in Indiana,” Johnson said. “That a very difficult stigma to overcome to be quite honest, and much of the older generation still clings to that.”

Johnson says there is hope for marijuana advocates out there as he says the stigma is “dying off.”

Another part of the problem with legalizing pot has been fear from those running for public office. He says many times political candidates have had to posture to their party base on marijuana saying that it should be illegal just to get elected; even if in reality they think otherwise.

Recent polling by Indy Politics shows that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters surveyed, 67%, now support the legalization of pot, especially for medicinal purposes.

“They no longer have to worry about not being elected for supporting cannabis legalization,” Johnson said. “That should alleviate a lot of fears. I hope a lot of our state politicians see that messaging.”

Among the candidates for governor, a majority of supporters for each candidate support legalizing pot. In fact, polling data showed that 82% of Curtis Hill’s supporters want to see pot legalized. Hill has been one of the candidates most ardently opposed pot.

Johnson says that statistic is pretty telling. “At what point does disconnect, or just choosing not to hear the message, become neglect of the people? Neglect of the people that support you,” he said.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has been one of the biggest obstacles to legalizing pot in Indiana. He has said numerous times that he will not support it until pot is at least legalized on the federal level.

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