Today is April 20th, a cold and rainy Monday morning here in New York.
Typically, Mondays are pretty dreary days anyway, marking the end of weekend festivities and a return to your work week.
In marijuana smokers’ circles, however, today is a day of special celebration. Across the country and around the globe, devotees of the green, leafy cannabis plant are rejoicing—and smoking—en masse.
It is a truly Happy Monday, indeed, for these THC tokers. Forget the weather, their heads are up in the clouds…of smoke.
That’s because each year on this exact date, known as “420,” “4-20,” “4/20,” “Four-Twenty” and “4:20,” users’ love for the psychoactive drug takes center stage, with festivals, concerts and countless smoking sessions held to celebrate its existence and mind-altering effects.
420 is a universal code term among smokers to express their mutual adoration of the funky weed and partake in its freaky, stoned-out effects, a term that became associated with the plant in the 1970s.
Some stoners get “baked”—slang for getting high by smoking marijuana—every day at 4:20 p.m. Others use the term as a catch-all for getting high or scoring some of the wacky stuff, and of course, April 20th, became a sort of stoner’s holiday.
A “High Holiday,” for example, which began this past weekend and is continuing throughout Monday in Denver, Colo.—where the statewide recreational use of marijuana was legalized, as well as in the state of Washington, in 2012—has drawn thousands of users and boasts a large “public smokeout” and High Times magazine-sponsored “Cannabis Cup” that awards individual buds and growers, according to a recent article by 7News Denver and other media outlets.
The date is referred to as “national Hooray for Hash Day” in a recent article about celebration ideas by the Colorado Springs Independent. A 2010 and 2011 Press story about the day’s meaning—the latter titled “What is 420?”—stated its affectionate “National Pot Smoking Day” billing among marijuana enthusiasts (though also pointing out it is obviously not a recognized national holiday).
But why? Why April 20th, of all days and all times?
No, it is not Jerry Garcia’s birthday! (That’s August 1st, silly rabbits!)
It’s not California Penal Law code for a marijuana bust, either. (A “420” is obstructing entry onto public land, Bob Marley fans!)
As for this catch-all term’s origin, citing High Times’ creative director and former editor Steven Hager in a 2009 article, The New York Times states it all began with a few pot-smoking friends.
“Mr. Hager said the significance of April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s in which a group of northern California teenagers smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 p.m.,” it reads. “Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. Soon, marijuana aficionados were using ‘420’ as a code for smoking and using it as a sign-off on fliers for concerts where the drug would be plentiful.”
Whatever its genesis, the term has become synonymous with “Mister Baby Leaf-Leaf,” which goes by a long list of slang names across the globe: “Dope,” “Weed,” “Barney,” “Detroit,” “Blifter,” “Freakus,” “Harris,” “Davis,” “Doobie,” “Bongo,” “Jay Tokenstein,” “Lula,” “Old Toby,” “Mary Jane,” “Bobby Brown,” and “Reefer,” among them.
Though hailed by some for its medicinal and otherworldly effects, marijuana has been slammed by others as a “Gateway Drug”—which can lead to deadlier, harder drugs—that spews carcinogenic smoke, possesses the physiological and psychological consequences of dry mouth, loss of short-term memory, motor skills impairment and eye irritation, among other problems, and the drug’s detrimental neurological impacts, such as its potential link to schizophrenia. Marijuana use has also been found to increase appetite, a phenomena smokers refer to as “The Munchies.”
Medical marijuana became legal in New York State last year and there has been growing debate about the prospect of the overall legalization the drug and shedding federal restrictions against medical marijuana, but it is still illegal here, and can result in hefty fines and imprisonment for its possession, sale and trafficking.
So don’t put that in your pipe in the Empire State.