Some churches see "420" as a means to spread the gospel
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 19, 2014
LOS ANGELES » Social media has been buzzing for weeks with jokes about how Easter shares the calendar this year with the pot lover's highest holiday: April 20, or 420 in stoner lingo. Pot smokers have long celebrated on the date by lighting up for reasons not quite clear.
Yet amid the online cracks about worshipping a "higher" power, tutorials on how to make a joint shaped like a cross and photos of Easter baskets piled with pot-filled eggs, a handful of churches nationwide are using the coincidence to make much bigger points.
In the Highland Park (no kidding) neighborhood of Los Angeles, a church is using medical marijuana imagery and catchy wordplay to attract new worshippers to an Easter sermon series called "Medicated," about seeking fulfillment through God, not drugs.
Across the country, in Mississippi, a church is hosting a massive concert to denounce marijuana legalization with the title "Reverse 420: God Keeps Me High."
"I was sitting on a plane and I was looking at my calendar, and I realized that Easter fell on 4/20 and I thought, ‘Man, half of my friends, they're going to be doing something else on 4/20. They're not going to want to come to church,'" said Pastor Justice Coleman, founder of Freedom Church in Highland Park.
"So, how could we put together a talk or a program that wouldn't celebrate smoking weed, but would celebrate the idea that there's so much more to life?" said Coleman, 30. "That's what we're going to be talking about."
Coleman's mailers and promotional video for the Easter service include the green cross associated with medical marijuana clinics and a teaser that recalls Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection: "Celebrate 4/20 with us because you can't get any higher than risen."
"I think the idea that we supplement our lives with a lot of things, I think that resonates with a lot of people," he said. "Imagine a life where you didn't need to do that."
The church events come against the much more irreverent backdrop of the Internet, where social media has exploded with pictures of bunnies chomping on marijuana leaves, plastic Easter eggs stuffed with dope and posts such as "Blaze it and praise it!"
In California many medical marijuana dispensaries have long offered special promotions to their clients on 4/20, and this year they have added Easter-themed goods, such as plastic eggs stuffed with pot-infused chocolate truffles.
The significance of the April 20 date is unclear and shrouded in urban legend. The most common version maintains that 420 was police scanner code for "smoking in progress."
Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press