April 20th Underground Drug Holiday Raises Concerns

By Joe Bennett

April 20, 2011 Updated Apr 21, 2011 at 5:49 PM CDT

You might not know it, but April 20th is something of an underground holiday that promotes drug use, and Illinois State Police are concerned over its growing commercialization.

If you're familiar with the significance of this number, besides the date, you probably won't be telling State Police Trooper Dustin Pierce. He says, "We're very much aware of what this day means."

420 is considered a sacred number among marijuana smokers.

Some say 420 is the police radio code for cannabis use while others say the historical date is important.

Whatever the reason, marijuana smokers have made the date important to them, saying It's kind of become an underground holiday.

Peoria Theater owner Luke McCann caters to a wide range of movie-goers.

McCann says it's no different to offer free viewings of Grateful Dead The Movie or The Wizard of Oz set to Pink Floyd on a day that encourages drug use, "If we're catering to a certain crowd, that's what we do all the time. If our movie's a documentary or a foreign film or a nature film, we're catering to a certain crowd."

As the celebration of this underground holiday grows every year, it clearly becomes more commercial and that is why Illinois State Police say April 20th becomes more dangerous every year.

Trooper Pierce says, "Any time they're promoting illegal drug use its a concern to us. And then they mix that and driving. That is even a larger concern to us."

So much a concern that state troopers are assigned patrols specifically on the look out for marijuana use on April 20th, wary of the promotions this unrecognized holiday receives.

However, McCann says his theater does not promote drug use. Rather, he just caters to his customers, "My 420 movie last year brought in forty five people. I'd be crazy not to do it again, and I'm going to do it next year too."

Trooper Pierce says, "Every year it seems this event gets bigger and bigger and we're going to gauge our enforcement towards that."

Pierce says this brings enforcement to a new battle in the war on drugs, fighting the commercialization of an underground holiday that seems to be making its way more to the surface every year.

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