I am unsure how many reading this post outside of the United States will get the reference in my title. Oh, right, there is that “internet” thingy so I guess, a lot.
Today it is the calendar day, April 20. In the United States we say and write 4/20. Here in Amsterdam they write it as 20/4 so it doesn’t quite work so well as a “code” here. Which shoots down the first rumor of how 420 got it’s name, no, there is no such thing as “tea time” here in Amsterdam, that’s England, so 4:20 is not the time smokers gather, in fact here they are on military time so 4:20 in the afternoon is referred to as 16:20 and 4:20 here is in the middle of the night/early morning, and I don’t recall any of my smoking friends as being early risers.
What am I talking about? Marijuana, or as it is known by its “code” name in the U.S., 420.
There are a lot of interesting rumors as to how 420 came to be known as marijuana in the States. Some of my favorites are;
In Bob Dylan’s song, ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,’ the lyrics contain ‘everybody must get stoned.’ 420 comes from the title, as 12 x 35 = 420. (Geez, I don’t remember the kids in school who got high regularly as being this good in math!)
In Ontario, Canada in the 60’s, marijuana grew freely on one of the Highways. This highway was later renamed in 1972 as Highway 420. (So, wouldn’t this have been after the drug already had the name?)
There are 420 chemicals in marijuana. (No, the number varies depending on what you are smoking.)
The police code for marijuana is 420. (No, it is not.)
Apparently the true origin of the term came from a bunch of High School kids outside of San Francisco, one of the epicenters for counter culture in the 60’s and 70’s.
At San Rafael High School, in 1971, among a group of about a dozen pot-smoking students who called themselves “The Waldos”, the term was used, as shorthand for the time of day the group would meet at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur, to smoke pot. Intent on developing their own discreet language, they made 420 “code” for a time to get high, and its use spread among members of an entire generation. Yep, someone who was probably my babysitter’s age in 1971 invented the term and today 420 is still used to refer to a time to get high, a national day to get high, and marijuana itself.
Other interesting facts about today, 4/20 are:
It was the birthday of Adolf Hitler in 1889.
It was the date of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
All of the clocks in the movie Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20.
In 2003, when the California legislature codified the medical marijuana law voters had approved, the bill was named SB420.
In Amsterdam, everyday is marijuana-smoking day. I will have to walk by some “coffee shops” today and see if there is an abnormal amount of Americans crowding the joint.