420 Day: Medical Marijuana's Big Bash

Welcome to April 20. While it might just seem like a normal Monday to you, for many in the cannabis culture, today -- also known as 420 day -- is a holiday to celebrate and consume marijuana.

Across the country, legalization advocates, medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational users plan to celebrate.

In the San Francisco Bay community of Richmond, about 200 people are expected to show up at the "First Annual 420 Patients Appreciation Bash" at the 7 Stars Holistic Healing Center. The medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors in February but plans to use this highly publicized event as its grand opening. California NORML, the legalization advocacy group, has been helping to promote the bash.

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"It's a way to bring awareness to the movement," said Adrian E. Moore, director of operations at 7 Stars. "The overall message that we're trying to relay is to erase some of the stereotypes that are associated with marijuana and recreational use."

The $10 event will include a buffet, DJ, hookah and billiards.

While the day is about having a good time, it is also to raise awareness, said J.J. Dayem, director of patient services at 7 Stars.

"The biggest thing is to have an open mind and know that there are people out there who are generally suffering from cancer, back pain, all sorts of medical problems," he said. "The biggest thing is that people should be able to get safe access."

The police are taking their own part in 420 day.

In Florida this morning, a police officer pulled over a white pick-up truck and got a surprise: a giant stash of marijuana plants. The pile was estimated to be worth half a million dollars. (The driver escaped before police could arrest him.)

Regardless of where you stand on the moral and legal issues surrounding marijuana use, one thing has become clear: as more state legalize its use for medical reasons, a whole new industry has cropped up.

For 7 Stars and similar businesses, 420 day isn't just about advocacy -- it's about dollars and cents.

Nowhere is that more evident than just a little further up the California coast in Humboldt County.

Pot Central

When Stephen Gasparas arrived in Humboldt County in late 2004, he was driving a VW Westfalia pop-top camper on the verge of breaking down and had only $100 in his pocket.

Gasparas, who ran a flooring business in Chicago before heading west, seems to have found far greener pastures in Humboldt County's medical marijuana industry.

Less than four years later, the owner of the Arcata iCenter, a collective marijuana dispensary, is now driving a new hybrid Toyota Highlander and bringing in about $100,000 a year. (And judging by the foot traffic in and out of the iCenter, that figure is a modest estimate.)

But Gasparas is just one of many in Humboldt County and throughout California benefiting from the booming medical marijuana industry.

Exactly how much the Golden State has made in pot profits is a hazy figure, mostly because California doesn't keep exact numbers on the sales tax on medical marijuana.

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