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420 Games Challenge Pothead Stereotypes

Stoners are lazy, confused, lost in the clouds. Send them on a quick errand and you might not see them again for a week. Such are the stereotypes, anyway.

420 Games Fun Run, San FranciscoThe first annual 420 Games fun run in Santa Monica was designed to bust those myths, but the pothead runners also took time to play along with them for laughs.

The race started 30 minutes late. The lead runner threw his hands in the air when he couldn’t figure out which way to turn at the two-mile mark. The winner, Chris Barnicle, got “lost” and reached the finish line from the wrong side.

“Typical stoners,” Barnicle joked as the 4.2 mile run got started.

These were gags, naturally, and their point was to puncture the shiftless image of marijuana users across the state. Otherwise, the race was a serious effort to introduce Southern California to the reality of its many pot aficionados.

Erasing the perception that potheads are lazy

Runners were joined by bicyclists and in-line skaters, racing along the bike path between the Santa Monica Pier and the Venice Pier in Los Angeles. The point: to erase the common perception that cannabis smokers are lazy.

Four states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana, and California is likely to join them in the November statewide election. Few things stand in the way, though negative stereotypes are among them.

420 Games organizer Jim McAlpine, a one-time executive at a ski lift company, uses medical cannabis and has organized similar runs in San Francisco over the last two years. He plans to expand to Denver, Portland, and Seattle later in 2016. The March run was the first time the games have appeared in Los Angeles.

Expanding the 420 Games to other states

Venice Pier, Los Angeles“I use marijuana every day, multiple times a day,” McAlpine said. “I use it on a level where people have called me a stoner my whole life, and I’m the farthest, farthest thing from a stoner. I own my own company. I’m married. I’m a good athlete. I do very well for myself.”

Actually, that definition would cover many tokers who do consider themselves stoners. The fun run in March drew Californians who work in cannabis delivery services, dispensaries, the medical industry, food trucks, and the music community, all supporting the future of marijuana reform.

That doesn’t mean the aroma of weed wafted through the air, however. From start to finish, there was no actual marijuana smoking to be found. Organizers said they felt that would be counterproductive. Instead, participants chatted about their favorite drug and shared information about the industries it fuels.

R.J. Blade, who works for the company behind an MMJ delivery app, said he came in part because many people look down on him for his medicinal toking.

“I still get a little bit of a side-eye, so I have to, to some extent, hide it,” Blade said.

Barnicle noted that his backward arrival at the finish line was a joke, but one meant to make a point: that marijuana users have a sense of humor about themselves and their popular image.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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