It's 4/20 -- do you know where your marijuana euphemisms are?
Actually, one of the biggest is in the previous sentence.
In the hazy world of weed, the most blazing buzzword around these days is "420" -- the number, the time and the date. It has come to mean everything from the act of smoking and the stuff that's smoked to optimum smoking time.
"It's well on its way to becoming a hippie holiday," says Steven Hager, the editor of High Times magazine.
Actually, in case you haven't noticed through all the smoke, the dope-y digits "420" are beginning to appear everywhere.
They're on T-shirts, hats and bumper stickers, in rap and rock lyrics, and also on the big screen: In Quentin Tarantino's Hollywood hit, "Pulp Fiction," the clocks were all set to 4:20.
"It's become a code people use to identify with each other and talk to each other without letting outsiders know what's going on," says Hager. "Ninety-nine percent of the people outside of stoner culture have no idea what 420 means; but 99.9 percent of the people inside the culture, they know.
Though it is believed that 420 is either police code for pot-smoking in progress or the number of compounds in tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC, the stuff in marijuana that gets users high), it's neither, police officers and scientists say.
Instead, it's simply the time of day a group of San Rafael High School students known as "The Waldos" set as their after-school marijuana meeting time back in 1971.
This according to Steve "Waldo," who says he's willing to take a lie-detector test to prove he and his friends created the number that is now No. 1 in cannabis culture.
"We've never made a penny off it, and we don't plan to," says Steve, who now runs a reputable financial business in San Francisco and, thus, did not want his last name used. "We're just proud of the legacy we began.
"We used to sit on this wall and mock everyone," explained Steve. "We would mock the greasers with their fast cars, we would mock the cheerleaders." The Waldos were mostly known for their great devotion to cannabis, the Marx Brothers and stand-up comedy. One day, while they were sitting on the wall, a friend gave them a treasure map to a pot patch on nearby Point Reyes Peninsula. "His brother grew the patch," said Steve. The Waldos decided to meet after school and pick the patch. Since school got out at 3:10, and since some of the Waldos had after-school activities that lasted approximately one hour, someone decided they should meet at exactly 4:20 PM, at the statue of Louis Pasteur, which was located near the entrance to the school parking lot.
"Who needs to be told that you can only smoke pot at a certain time of the day!" my friend Thom, the original Freedom Fighter of the Month, screamed at me a while back. "This is prohibition! I should be able to smoke pot whenever I feel like it."
Now, it's my personal belief that when a meaningful event becomes so overburdened with ceremonial trappings and repeated rituals to the point where people forget what the original meaning was all about-it's way past time to end that ritual. But for most of us 4:20 is just like the British daily indulgence in tea-time (and after all, "tea-time" never meant you can't drink coffee in the morning). That is, to most people 4:20 is just a way to make sure you take a mid-afternoon break, and light up with coworkers or fellow students. Most of us aren't synchronizing watches, counting down the seconds, and frantically passing the bong or joint so we can stop smoking at precisely 4:21. In my opinion, people doing stuff like that need professional help.
Some very important historical facts that make April 20th the perfect date for a Stoner New Year. The spring activist season has always kicked off around April 1st at Ann Arbor in Michigan. It's often too cold during the first week in April to draw a big crowd though. The second important date for political activists who are trying to relegalize cannabis is May 1st. The Annual May Day parade in New York started in Washington Square Park in 1973, and has been going on ever since, and is the last big date before the end of the college year. So April 20 fits in perfectly for gathering in protest of anti-marijuana laws, whether it's done privately and secretly or with thousands of others in public.
The traditional New Year's Day is also usually associated with alcohol consumption, so most hardcore stoners would prefer to celebrate their own New Year's on a different day. What better day than April 20, when spring is in the air and it's time to plant the seeds for the fall harvest? Cannabis smokers tend to be close to the earth, so a date of April 20th is the perfect time to celebrate the earth's renewal. The weather is turning nice, the leaves are appearing on the tress, and the flowers are beginning to bud. (Not cannabis flowers, the other kind!)
I believe 420 is a ritualization of cannabis use that holds deep meaning for our subculture. It also points us in a direction for the responsible use of cannabis. Before one can understand the difference between responsible and irresponsible use of cannabis, one must come to terms with the fact there are really two cannabis cultures in America: smart stoners and stupid stoners.
The stupid stoners wakenbake on exam days. They think being high is an end in itself and strive to be stoned as often as possible. When a stupid stoner shows up at your house, they usually feel it's their duty to compulsively decimate whatever stash you have immediately and save nothing for later. Stupid stoners are the people Cheech and Chong made fun of when they created the most widely accepted stereotype of a pothead.
Smart stoners, on the other hand, are the ones who use cannabis as a creative tool to enhance their lives. They know cannabis can be an asset if used intelligently. Bob Marley, Willie Nelson, Louis Armstrong, Ken Kesey and Stephen Gaskin are among the many cultural icons who fall into the smart stoner category.
But what does all this have to do with 420? First, it means it's better to wait to start smoking pot until 4:20 PM-unless, of course, you have a medical reason for starting sooner. The late afternoon is the time to step back and review the days events. Its the time to brainstorm. The people who use cannabis sparingly get more impact than those who use it continuously. The more you smoke, the less high you get. The less often you smoke, the higher you get. This has always been my experience.