Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2010
Source: Savannah Morning News (GA)
Copyright: 2010 Savannah Morning News
Author: Lisa Leff


OAKLAND, Calif. =AD 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 where entrepreneurs mingled
with investors and a city councilman.

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" =AD insider shorthand for cannabis
consumption. IGrow, a 3-month-old cultivation
equipment emporium, got a 24-hour jump start on
the festivities by sponsoring a "420 Eve" festival Monday afternoon.

Several hundred revelers lined up outside the
15,000-square-foot shop =AD security guards kept
them at bay until 4:20 p.m. =AD waiting for the
chance to revel in their drug of choice'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

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."

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.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart