The Surprise Hip Place to Celebrate 4/20

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Hummer SUV drivers are 4.63 times more likely to get caught for speeding than the average driver. (MSN Money Staff)

    Forget Hippie Hill. For thoroughly modern marijuana smokers in the San Francisco Bay area, the hip place to celebrate their movement's high holiday this year was the inside of a stretch Hummer parked outside a pot gardening superstore.

    Marijuana legalization advocates across the country are expected to light up during Tuesday's annual observance of 4/20, the celebration-cum-mass civil disobedience derived from "420" -- insider shorthand for cannabis consumption.

    IGrow, a 3-month-old cultivation equipment emporium, got a 24-hour jump, sponsoring a "420 Eve" festival Monday afternoon.

    Several hundred revelers lined up outside the 15,000-square-foot shop -- security guards kept them at bay until 4:20 p.m. -- waiting for the chance to revel in marijuana's rising commercial clout.

    Inside the gates, they perused booths stocked with pipe-shaped lollipops and specialty fertilizers, entered a medical marijuana delivery service's raffle for an oversized joint and toured a 53-foot-long portable grow room with a starting price of $60,000.

    "I wouldn't have thought we would be able to consume on site," marveled John Corral, 19, of San Jose, after he obtained a wristband that gave him access to the event's two "vapor lounges," the one inside the Hummer and another inside a companion Range Rover limousine.

    Marijuana use -- medically and recreationally -- is getting more attention these days, with California voters deciding in November whether to legalize the drug, and South Dakota voters considering this fall to allow its medical use. California and 13 other states already permit such use.

    Most Americans still oppose legalizing marijuana, but larger majorities believe pot has medical benefits and the government should allow its use for that purpose, according to an Associated Press-CNBC poll released Tuesday.

    Respondents were skeptical that crime would spike if marijuana is decriminalized or that it would lead more people to harder drugs.

    There also was a nearly even split on whether government spends too much or the right amount enforcing marijuana laws. Almost no one thinks too little is spent.

    Two years ago, before he had a doctor's recommendation to smoke pot, Corral commemorated 4/20 on Hippie Hill, the Golden Gate Park promontory where an earlier generation of pot aficionados made their stand.

    IGrow has arranged to have a doctor working at the store three days a week to evaluate people seeking to become medical marijuana patients, and a handful of those at the 420 Eve party were able to snag last-minute appointments.

    Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the drug's steady movement from counterculture indulgence to mainstream acceptance will be evident elsewhere in the United States Tuesday, when four cable television channels have scheduled "a good chunk of programming to 420."

    St. Pierre said that with the terms "marijuana" or "cannabis" regularly showing up on the top Internet searches and a measure to legalize the plant's recreational use appearing on as many as four state ballots in November, it's clear that groups like his, which has lobbied to decriminalize marijuana since 1970, are no longer blowing smoke.

    "There is a large mainstreaming of all of this," he said. "Some of it is happening because of natural forces and some of it is happening because commercial entities looking to comport with local social mores and values are taking advantage of this bizarre numerology."

    There are a variety of stories about the origin of 420, but pot advocates generally attribute the term to the time when a group of San Francisco Bay area high schoolers would gather to smoke marijuana. The term was then popularized by High Times magazine and the Grateful Dead.

    At the iGrow event, Tom Patton of GrowOp Technology, proudly discussed the inspiration for the "Big Bud" growing trailer he developed with Derek Peterson, a former stock broker. Patton said he kept hearing about pot growers who "were constantly putting up and taking down" grow rooms built inside warehouses or residential homes because of complaints from neighbors, fires sparked by faulty wiring or threats of law enforcement raids.

    His pot room on wheels, which comes outfitted with a security system and technology to adjust temperature and humidity levels from an iPhone, may not completely eliminate the last concern, but that hasn't stopped a pair of New York bankers from investing in the invention.

    "This is an enabling technology, not a hiding-out technology," Patton said.

    The lure of revenue and respectability has prompted some veterans of the marijuana wars to diversify. Joshua Freeman, a Sonoma County pot grower, was at the 420 Eve festival handing out samples of the specialty plant food he recently developed and is trying to market.

    "We are not just a bunch of stoners sitting back on a couch playing video games," Freeman said.