What Does '420' Mean?
A discussion on our Parenting Advice and Support Forum, had this Guide in puzzlement. I had reported years ago that the term 420(pronounced four twenty, not four hundred and twenty), was police code for smoking marijuana in a feature on pager codes that teenagers use to "talk" to each other. I began researching the number again and it seems I was wrong. Read on to learn the myths, the truth about the origin and what this term means for parents.
Police dispatch code for smoking pot is 420. The number 420 is not police radio code for anything, anywhere. Checks of criminal codes suggest that the origin is neither Californian nor federal. For instance, California Penal Code 420 defines as a misdemeanor the hindrance of use of public lands.
There are approximately 420 active chemicals in marijuana. Actually, there are approximately 315 active chemicals in marijuana. This number goes up and down depending on which plant is used.
April 20th is National Pot Smokers Day. Well, it is now; but that wasn't the origin.
April 20th is Hitler's birthday. Yes, it is his birthday. But, as 420 started out as a time, not a date, his birthday had nothing to do with it.
April 20th is the date of the Columbine school shootings. This happened after the term was already in use.
4:20 is tea time for pot-smokers in Holland. Tea time in Holland is at 5:30 pm, or is it 2:30 pm? Seems no one is quite sure when the wonderful people of Holland drink their tea.
The Origin Revealed
According to Steven Hager, editor of High Times, the term 420 originated at San Rafael High School, in 1971, among a group of about a dozen pot-smoking wiseacres who called themselves the Waldos, who are now pushing 50. The term was 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. While our teens feel that they know something we don't, you can let them in on the fact that it was your generation that came up with the numbers.
A quote from one of the Waldos in the High Times article states, "We did discover we could talk about getting high in front of our parents without them knowing by using the phrase 420." Fortunately, your teenagers will not have that same option.
Simply put, 420 is a symbol of cannabis and its culture.
Today, April 20th events are international, and 4:20 pm has become sort of a world wide "burn time". It certainly doesn't matter too much where the term came from because for us parents, it's a flag, a warning sign that our teenagers may be into something that could harm their future. When you see the symbol 420, be aware of what it represents.