420 (cannabis culture)

The number 420 (pronounced four-twenty) is a euphemism for the consumption of cannabis and elements of its associated culture. The exact origin of the term is unknown.

Origin theories

Snopes.com, High Times Magazine, and The Straight Dope claim that in the early 1970s, a group of teenagers at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California used to meet every day to smoke marijuana after school at 4:20 PM at the water tower.

One piece of evidence supporting an origin of the term from the time 4:20 is the fact that the number is always said "four twenty" and not "four hundred twenty".

In 1955, Raj Kapoor directed a film entitled Shree 420 (Mr. 420), a common slang reference to someone who has a reputation for fraud, theft and deception, since apprehensions for such crimes are usually section 420 of the Indian Penal Code that dates to its introduction by the British Raj in 1860.

Other theories include the following:

Urban legend claims, incorrectly, that 420 is or was a police code for a drug bust or for "marijuana smoking in progress", or that 4:20 is or was the shift change for the police.

It was, at one time, believed that there were 420 chemicals in marijuana.

Many mistake April 20 as being the day Bob Marley, a famous rastafarian musician, died. The actual date he died is May 11.

Many mistake April 20 as being the day Adolf Hitler died. The actual date he died is April 30; the 20th was his birthday.

Many gather to celebrate and consume marijuana on April 20th, although this is almost definitely an effect of the popularization of the term 420, rather than a cause.

April 20 is sometimes claimed to be the last day on which one is supposed to plant cannabis seeds (although with the variety of planting regions and cannabis genetics, no such date can logically apply to all growing operations).

"D" and "T" are the 4th and 20th letters of the alphabet, respectively, and thus "DT" stands for "doobie time" ("doobie" being a slang term for a marijuana cigarette).

At 4:20 on an analogue clock, the hands line up in a downward angle giving the appearance that the face of the clock has a smoking instrument in its "mouth".

Some believe that marijuana grew wild on or near a purported Highway 420 in the Western United States in the 1960s.

Occurrences In Literature

The second line of the first verse in the children's nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' reads: "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie". ("Baked" is also a common euphemism for being under the influence of cannabis.)

The discoverer of LSD, Dr. Albert Hofmann, writes in his book "LSD: My Problem Child" that his first self-experiment with the drug occurred at 4:20 in the afternoon on April 19, 1943.

Occurrences In Music

The Bob Dylan song "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" is informally known as "Everybody must get stoned" since the chorus repeats that line. 12×35 = 420.

The 13th Floor Elevators' 1967 album, Easter Everywhere, opens with the track "Slip Inside This House", and the lyrics to the song include the lines: "Four and twenty birds of Maya/Baked into an atom you//Polarized into existence/Magnet heart from red to blue". Although the song is full of LSD-inspired imagery, these lyrics may be rock and roll's first overt reference to the marijuana-related number.

The Beatles song "Come Together" on 1969's Abbey Road is 4:20 in length and includes the line "He one holy roller", a possible reference to the practice of rolling up marijuana cigarettes.

The Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) song "4+20" on their 1970 Déjà Vu album has the numbers in the title and begins, "Four and twenty years ago ..."

The song "Smokin'" by Boston runs for 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

The wall built between Pink Floyd and the audience during the band's live performances of the album The Wall was made of 420 cardboard bricks.

The Dead Kennedys' song, "Saturday Night Holocaust", is 4 minutes 20 seconds long, though most likely referring to Hitler's birthday.

Nirvana's b-side "Even in His Youth" (on the single "Smells Like Teen Spirit") is listed as 4:20 in duration on the single's cover, while the song's length is actually 3:06.

The death metal band Six Feet Under recorded a song called "420" for their 1997 album Warpath.

The H.P. Lovecraft theory for the origin of 4:20 was first postulated on the official web-site for the rock band Tool.

The Sonic Youth track The Empty Page, on 2002's Murray Street is four minutes and twenty seconds in length.

The Green Day track Boulevard Of Broken Dreams on 2004's American Idiot is four minutes and twenty seconds in length.

"The Changeling" by The Doors is four minutes and twenty seconds in length.

Money Money (Live)From The Mars Hotel Bonus Tracks by the Grateful Dead is four minutes and twenty seconds long.

Rap artist Afroman released an album called "4RO20" and his website http://www.afromanmusic.com runs under the slogan "Where it's always 4RO20". Also, he changed the label on his "Colt 42" bottle to say "Colt 420", as seen on his website.

Occurrences In Film & Television

In the colorized version of the 1936 anti-marijuana/exploitation classic Reefer Madness, there is a brief subliminal flash showing 4:20 with a marijuana leaf in the background, 20 minutes and 24 seconds into the film. The colorized DVD was originally released on April 20, 2004, another reference to the slang term.

In the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction, the clocks in the pawn shop are set to 4:20. (It is often erroneously claimed that all clocks in the film are.)

In an episode of the show Futurama called "The Farnsworth Parabox", an alternate universe where everyone is a hippie is numbered as Universe 420.

In the 2003 film Lost In Translation, actor Bill Murray lies in bed looking at a clock, which reads 4:20.

The number is also prominently featured in the 2005 made-for-television musical version of Reefer Madness, which is based on the Reefer Madness stage show, which itself is based on the aforementioned 1936 film.

In WWE wrestling, the team of Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio used a double leg drop termed "the 420", ostensibly because of the number of legs involved (4) the number of people performing the move (2) and its "zero-gravity" effect. Throughout his career with Extreme Championship Wrestling, Rob Van Dam's various mottos generally incorporated the slang. An example would be, "It's 4:19. Got a minute?"

Occurrences On the Radio

The now-defunct Los Angeles, California radio station Arrow 93.1 used to play an authentic vinyl record every day at 4:20. This segment was called the Vinyl Vault.

The radio show "4:20 Drug War News", a short talk segment which promotes legalization of certain drugs, is usually aired at 4:20.

The Phoenix, Arizona, radio station Edge 103.9 plays a Bob Marley track every day at 4:20, both AM and PM, the slot is named 'Mandatory Marley'. In fact, many radio stations run a "Mandatory Marley" track at 4:20.

The Raleigh, North Carolina radio station 106.1 RDU plays a song everyday at 4:20pm and the slot is nick-named the 4:20 smoke break.

The San Diego, California radio station 91X 91.1 used to play a Bob Marley track every day at 4:20, both AM and PM, the slot is named 'Mandatory Marley'.

At 4:20, the XM Radio station "The Boneyard" reminds everyone that it is 'bong time'

In Canada, the Edmonton radio station 97.3 KROCK (CIRK-FM) plays a "Roll Your Own" request segment every day at 4:20 PM.

The Toronto, Canada, radio station 102.1 The Edge has interesting discussions during 'The 420 Thought'.

The Alexandria, Minnesota station [KX 92] plays a "classic comedy" bit every weekday at 4:20 PM.

Other Pop Culture Occurrences

April 20th (4/20) is often mistaken for the day LSD was first deliberately used by its inventor Albert Hoffman. The actual date was April 19th, and has been nicknamed Bicycle Day.

The high school shooting at Columbine occurred on April 20th, 1999. However, this is often connected with the birthdate of Adolf Hitler, which was also on April 20th. The date of the shooting has also been connected to the anniversary of either the raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, or the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, both of which occurred on April 19th.

The California law that authorizes and regulates medical uses of marijuana was Senate Bill 420 (Chapter 875/2003, John Vasconcellos). [1]

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, which would have prevented the U.S. Federal Government from using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, was voted on in Roll call 420. It did not pass.

The number 420 is common in classified ads describing housing or individuals which permit or encourage marijuana use ("420 OK"). This practice is common in socially progressive communities such as Craigslist. One such "Housing to share" listing, from the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1994, read:

A popular sailing dinghy is called the 420 (being 420 cm long) and is most commonly raced by adolescent and collegiate sailors.

A cannabis coffeeshop located at Oude Brugsteeg 27 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands is named the "420 Cafe".

The Sweetwater Brewing Company makes a beer called Sweetwater 420, and gives their tours at 4:20.


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