Article Courtesy of StonerRoad.com
Why do we celebrate 420?
Is it a police code? Is it Hitlers birthday? (It is his birthday, though why we would celebrate his birthday with a doobie is beyond explanations). 420 is one of those references shrouded in just enough mystery to keep the origin story myths coming. It’s a date on the calendar, it’s a time of day, but why is that number more significant than any other for the stoners of the world?
Police code, Deadhead invention, or chemical compounds?
Some of the stories that have circulated about 420 and why we celebrate it are more amusing than they are accurate. Although the Grateful Dead and their followers are big proponents of marijuana, the band did not always stay in Room 420 in hotels as they toured. And while there are hundreds of chemical compounds in cannabis, exactly how many is debated and they certainly weren’t known about when 420 originated in the 1970s. The leading theory that 420 is a police code is dead wrong on all accounts; 420 is the radio code for homicide in the Las Vegas Police Department, and that’s about it.
So, what’s the real?
420, 4:20, or 4/20 (all of which are pronounced “four-twenty”) is a code-term that refers to cannabis. However, it doesn’t have to refer to the time of 4:20 p.m. (that’s 16:20 for you Europeans), as well as celebrating cannabis despite its prohibition on April 20th each year. It’s true birth dates back to the early 1970s when it became code for “let’s go smoke a joint after school” with a group of high school students in San Rafael, California. Slightly less charming than it coming from Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35” (especially when you see what happens when you multiply those two numbers) but that’s the bonafide true story.
The group of 5 students made a wall near the statue of 19th-century French scientist Louis Pasteur their designated meeting spot for getting high at 4:20pm; hence the name bestowed upon them, The Waldos. Once lit, they would roam the campus in search of a rumored marijuana patch. They never found that bounty, but they probably had a fun time searching.
And there is actually an early connection with the band, the Grateful Dead because Dave Reddix’s (an original Waldo) brother was friends with Phil Lesh, the band’s bassist. Once the band was let in on this insider pot code, they began using it too. From there, it didn’t take long for the term 420 to spread to their very dedicated fans.
Why do we celebrate 420?
Thanks to prohibition, cannabis users had to keep their use private, contained, and often secret, lest they get arrested and charged with possession and use of a Schedule 1 drug. So, it would make sense that on April 20th, the world has a chance to band together, incite the idea of strength in numbers and buck the law that holds marijuana down. Parades, parties, demonstration, and “smoke-ins” are all a part of the celebrations meant to show support to the plant that we all love. Thankfully, the 420 crowds tend to be exceptionally peaceful and non-confrontational and so it’s a great day to toke up openly without much threat from police.
Celebrating 420 in pop culture
Pop culture is rife with 420 references.
● The clocks and timepieces in Pulp Fiction
● The same thing goes for the clocks in Lost in Translation are all set to 420
● In “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” 42-0 is the score on the football scoreboard
● An episode of animated comedy Family Guy, titled “420” is all about Stewie and Brian attempting to legalize marijuana; the song “A Bag of Weed” from that episode is a Youtube hit
● Snoop Dogg’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me (When I’m Gone)” was recorded in Amsterdam on 4/20, 2009
Celebrating 420 in state Senate Houses
In 2003, California’s Senate Bill 420 (SB 420), established guidelines for Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Program Act. And now, even Rhode Island has a Senate Bill 420 making its way through legislation with the aim of establishing a regulated adult-use (recreational) marijuana industry to catch up with neighboring Massachusetts.
Hopefully, soon with the efforts of lawmakers, pro-pot lobbyists, and advocates, we will see April 20th officially become a nationally legal day to light up.