Is it entirely crazy that a popular ice cream brand made a radical political statement in a polarizing political climate? No.
In fact, it should be welcomed and commended.
April 20, or as popular culture has come to know it, 4/20, has become an international “holiday” associated with marijuana. Joints and blunts are lit and more and more people smoke in celebration.
According to High Times Magazine, a marijuana-focused publication founded in 1974, the origin story of the term 4/20 comes from a group of friends at San Rafael High School in Marin County who referred to themselves as the Waldos, simply because they met at a wall outside the school.
In 1971, The Waldos set out on a “treasure hunt” to find a secret crop of weed they had been told about. They decided to meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside their school at 4:20 and used the code term “4:20 Louis.” They were unsuccessful in finding the crop but referred to the adventure henceforth as “4:20 Louis” before shortening it to just the time. Those four numbers have since been associated with the plant for smokers and fans around the world.
This past 4/20, Vermont-based ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s shared a progressive political message on its website regarding the legalization and profitization of marijuana. The message read: “Now that pot is legal in 33 states and counting, it’s a pretty heady moment for stoner culture. Fans of cannabis can celebrate 4/20 openly and in style in more places than ever before. And even if you’re not in a state that legalized pot, there’s a still a pretty good chance that the cops won’t hassle you as you spend 4/20 doing your thing…If you’re a white person.”
The statement from the ice cream company was bold but it’s not surprising. Ben and Jerry’s have become known for expressing messages that are socially liberal and progressive in the past. Just a week before the company had expressed support for the Green New Deal and in the past for Black Lives Matter. The ice cream variation Bernie’s Yearning was named for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The message went on to read: “If you love pot AND you’re white, everything is totally awesome these days. In 2017, 81% of cannabis executives were white. Meanwhile, even in states where pot is legal, and even though black people and white use pot at similar rates, black people are still arrested way more often than white. We love 4/20 and we love legalization, but that’s not OK.”
In a more politically heightened environment with controversial legalization and policy coming out of the White House everyday, more and more people are speaking up with both approval and disapproval for the state of affairs in our countries. If companies add their voices to that conversation, it makes sense. With large amounts of money from sales, they can donate to causes that are important to them or their customers. It is evident that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are doing exactly that.
And their message is important in a time where the calls for justice system reform are getting louder and louder. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, marijuana arrests now account for more than half of drug arrests. Arrest data between 2001 and 2010 showed significant racial bias with black offenders being arrested 3.73 times more likely than white ones.
With both medical and recreational marijuana becoming more accepted in states, the other piece of the puzzle is changing policy around arrests. Those found with small amounts of weed should not find themselves behind bars if others are able to make millions off of legal sale.
Ben and Jerry’s should be applauded for adding their voice to the cause. When ice-cream lovers now purchase pints of Cherry Garcia, The Tonight Show Dough, Chunky Monkey or Chocolate Therapy, they can know that their money is going to a good cause.