Author Archives: j B

Urban Legend

420 Origins

– Urban Legend

“If I had a dollar for every time someone told me how 420 originated, I’d be rich… or I’d at least be a few dollars richer.  The first time I heard about 420, I was in middle school.  I was on the phone with a friend, and he told me, “its 4:20, light up a joint!”.  At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about… several years later, and its all clear to me.  The first origination story I heard in regards to 420 was that marijuana burns at 420 degrees.  I just assumed this was true, but I later heard that 420 was actually a police radio code use to identify teenage stoners… Turns out both of these are incorrect.  Now, although this eerie date is shared with Hitler’s Birthday and the Columbine shootings, it turns out, that this entire 420 operation originated from a small high school in California.  Yeah, you heard me right.  420 was born out of San Rafael high school back in the early 70s.  A bunch of kids used to get together after school around 4:20 pm to toke up.  They did this regularly, and even started referring to smoking as 420.  They used this to evade the police and their parents.  However, it slowly caught on, and it then began to spread.  Soon enough, 420 grew into an international symbol for marijuana.” (L.S.)

Informant Analysis:

“Who would’ve thought that a bunch of high school kids would have started a craze that would quickly spread across the globe as a universally known code for marijuana.  People everywhere, in America, and I know tons of people in England, who all refer to 420 as the epitome of weed culture. It now symbolizes the culture, and tons of activist groups have referenced 420 in their campaigns or in their names.  I actually didn’t find about the San Rafael origin until just before 4/20 of this year.  I heard it from a girlfriend who I think told me she read it in a facebook group.  So who knows, but it all sounds real enough to me… quite the Cinderella story really.” (L.S.)

Personal Analysis:

The urban legends surrounding the origin of 420 have long been discussed and debunked.  I feel it is only recently that San Rafael emerged as the original founding location of 420.  I feel that the number of stories surrounding 420 is far less important than what they have come to mean.  420 has been embraced around the world as the full embodiment of cannabis culture.  It can be seen in music, films, television, and all mediums of pop culture.  No conversation on marijuana folklore would be complete without some mentioning of 420.  420 has become not only an international holiday, but also the basis for marijuana activist campaigns.  Churches have been erected and have included 420 in their title.  420 has united smokers across the globe and has provided a common basis for an ethnic link.  People can now identify themselves as part of the cannabis culture simply with the reciting of three numbers.  This is diffusion at its greatest!

Annotation: Information about a comic book entitled 420 can be found in this recent edition of High Times Magazine. This magazine stands as the pinnacle for continuous marijuana published information.

High Times Magazine, “Sensi Superman”, February 2007, page 13.


Turkish Rounds

– Game

“The only smoking game that I’ve ever heard of is Turkish Rounds… Although, I think I’ve also heard it referred to as Chicago.  It requires at least two people to play, and from that point on, the more people you add, the harder the game is.  The point is, after you rip the smoke, you are to hold it until the piece or joint is returned to you.  Only then are you supposed to exhale.” (A.G.)

Informant Analysis

“People usually play this game when their supplies are starting to dwindle.  They do it because it is tends to be more efficient, and the reasons are twofold.  One, you learn to take much smaller hits when playing, thus making the joint last longer.  Two, the longer you hold the smoke in your lungs, the more it will affect you, and the higher you will effectively become.  However, it certainly requires a high degree of lung stamina which is what makes it such a challenge.  Most people have to cough the smoke out well before the piece is returned to them.  It’s also a way to earn stripes as a credible smoker.” (A.G.)

Personal Analysis:

It seems the functions of this game are both practical and competitive.  As the informant so aptly described, playing Turkish Rounds allows smokers to be more conservative with their consumption.  This must be particular useful when one is nearing the end of their stash of cannabis.  Simultaneously, this game creates a competitive environment in which the lung capacity of the participants is duly tested.

In addition to the functions listed above, this game also serves to highlight the fact that most smokers tend to smoke only in groups.  Unlike with cigarettes, it seems that cannabis users much prefer smoking with others than smoking alone.  It seems to be a bonding experience in which users tend to sit or stand in a circle.  Thus, despite the competitive element of this game, there exists also a significant team-based component.  Players depend upon the others to quickly inhale their share of smoke and then swiftly pass it along to the next person.  The longer they take in doing this, the harder it is for everyone else to play.  Thus, if the primary focus of the group is efficiency as opposed to competition, the circle becomes a unified team with the shared goal of working together.


Magic Brownies

– Recipe

“My recipe is you take two ounces of trim/marijuana clippings.  Or two ounces of low grade Marijuana.  So check it out – you bring a cup of water to a boil.  You then add two sticks of butter.  Once the butter melts, you throw the two ounces of MJ into the butter/water mixture.  Allow that mixture to simmer at a low temperature for aprox. four hours.  Ok so after the butter has been simmered, you drain the mixture of all the spent marijuana clippings.  And allow the mixture to cool, as the mixture cools, the butter rises and separates from the water.  And you’re left with umm a stick of cannabutter and some waste water that is later disposed of, or converted to Bhang.  This is done by adding milk to the waste the water.  The stick of cannabutter can then be used to create brownies or any other eatable of your choosing.  Simply fuse the butter with the brownie mix or item of your choice, and bon a’petit.” (J.M.)

Informant Analysis:

“I learned this recipe from a friend of mine in high school.  There are a lot of variations because some people like using only butter.  But I think that simmering it with water allows to separate some of the undesirable marijuana flavors from the fat soluble THC and other CTPs.  This leaves you with a tasty snack, and a fun new way of getting high.  Best of all, the high is better and lasts longer.” (J.M.)

Personal Analysis:

Making special brownies seems to be reserved for the smoking connoisseurs as it entails a much longer preparation process than any other means of consumption.  However, the benefits certainly seem to exceed the cost.  Aside from simply being a tasty snack, consuming cannabis in this fashion is significantly healthier in that it avoids any of the potential lung damaging effects associated with smoking. Additionally, it is known to facilitate an equally impressive and longer lasting effect.  That being said, it would seem that it is a more costly process in that it requires around two ounces of cannabis to create.

What is interesting to note about this folk recipe is the notion of variation.  People enjoy the consumption of cannabis in all possible ways, from smoking, to vaporizing, to eating.  Even when limited to eatables, variation exists in abundance.  People have different techniques for preparing cannabutter, and they certainly have varying tastes when determining what end product to create.


I See France

– Proverb / Saying

Celui qui fume est celui qui voit

The one that smokes is the one that sees

He who smokes is he who sees

Informant Analysis:

“In France we love to smoke.  Many uhh people can be found smoking tobacco.  However, it is … uhh how do you say… common to mix weed with the tobacco when rolling. In France we call this a spliff.  But we smoke it in a different way then you do in America.  In France, we take our time with it.  Here, I have seen that Americans are rushed when smoking.  They take two puffs and then pass it.  In France, we chill with it.  You can smoke as long as you want.  There is a saying in France about marijuana.  It goes, celui qui fume est celui qui voit.  In English this means, he who smokes is he who sees.  It refers to … more to uhhh … philosophy… Smoking, how do you say, opens your mind?  You are in touch with the world. You see things in a new way.” (D.B.)

Personal Analysis:

It seems that cannabis is often associated with philosophy in some way.  Upon consumption of this plant, brain activity is in some way altered.  This change can psychologically alter one’s thinking.  The French saying that the informant alluded to clearly points to this alteration as a philosophical enhancement.  I must agree with the informant in regards to his analysis of what the item means.  The usage of any psychedelic, such as cannabis, can enhance any number of conceptions and activities.  However, this particular substance appears to often effect one’s perceptions of existence and being.  This may be why some religions utilize the plant for meditation purposes.  This saying therefore becomes reminiscent of a legend in that it invites discussion as to whether it is true or not.

Similar examples of this topic can be seen throughout American pop culture.  The television show, Entourage, for example contains an episode in the first season entitled, the Script and the Sherpa.  In this episode, Val Kilmer makes a guest appearance as a pot growing Sherpa.  After consuming an exuberant amount of cannabis, he delivers a strange philosophical monologue in which he states, “The Earth is moving. Did you feel that? Everything. All the time. Dimensions we can’t even see. Everything is evolving.”  Thus, at least in this particular example, it is clear that cannabis may enhance one’s philosophical viewpoints.

However, before alluding to this French saying, the informant relayed a few other unique points.  The most interesting being his critique of the way Americans smoke “spliffs”.  In his short time spent in US, he was quick to observe the “puff puff pass” dynamic exhibited by American smokers.  It seems he felt unaccustomed and almost rushed by this seemingly petty ritual, as in his country, there is no set standard for how long one should smoke.  However, this ritual is an inherent component of the American smokers’ “etiquette”. Clearly this courtesy has yet to diffuse across the Atlantic.


The Ganja Sheep

– Legend

“The Twa found weed taking the sheep’s, they used to take, they are the only people that eat sheep things.  They are the ones who raise sheeps to eat.  One time, a Twa guy would take their sheep to a bush.  One time, they would stay for hours and hours.  Here they would eat the bushes.  The guy wouldn’t tell that they are high, you see.  He would just see that they are very happy.  And then, they kept on eating it and eating it.  He then took one of the leaves and cooked it.  It made it him very dizzy.  Another time, he took it and kept it.  When it became dry, he tried smoking it.  Rich people smoke tobacco in a tobacco leaf.  This is how he knew.  He knew to smoke it for people smoked tobacco. Before they even offer you something to drink, they offer you something to smoke.  In my culture, before drink, you smoke.  It is usually tobacco, because most people don’t have the visit of the King all the time.  If the King visits, you must find weed and give to him.” (D.C.)

Informant Analysis:

“I tell you this story to show how the Twa found weed.  You don’t guess that it was the sheep that actually did it.  The Twa use the sheep to find weed, and then use the weed to get sheep.  But it is of importance to mention our culture.  Smoke is important to us and can be of higher worth than food.” (D.C.)

Personal Analysis:

I think it is incredibly interesting to see how valued marijuana is in other parts of the world.  The Twas relied on it for their survival.  It is no wonder that the Rwandans may have questioned how it first was discovered.  Upon such a question, one was bound to make an assumption.  That is what I believe this narrative is, an assumption.  Although possible, it seems hard to fathom that it was a sheep that first stumbled upon cannabis.  However, the existence of this legend only further signifies the relevance marijuana has had on the Rwandan culture.  Even more germane to the topic is the informant’s reference to the hierarchy of goods used in entertaining guests.  In this hierarchy, cannabis takes the highest priority, above food and even water.

Folk Belief

Temple 420

– Folk Belief

“I heard a couple weeks ago from a friend of mine about Temple 420.  It opened in LA I think a year ago.  Apparently some people or some religions rather… they feel that pot is actually a holy plant.  The Book of Genesis refers to a tree of life and the Book of Revelations speaks of a plant that will heal all nations.  The guy that founded Temple 420, among many others, argues that marijuana is the plant they speak of.  So now, I guess from what I hear, marijuana has become a sacrament used at church.  I think the guy was actually Jewish though, which is why he called it a temple.” (D.S.)

Informant Analysis:

“Well my friend told me that the place got busted by cops because of all the weed that was being given out.  But now hes apparently taking the LAPD to court over 30 billion dollars! Now people have been going to the church as a cheaper method of getting legal weed.  It’s a lot easier than getting your club card.  It’s cheaper too cause I heard that it only costs a hundred dollars to join.  I definitely think it’s interesting that they believe weed is holy though.  In a way, I can see why they might think it’s the plant to heal all nations.  Everyones always talking about how peaceful it makes you.  Look at all the hippies that used to smoke it and look how peace loving they were.  So I don’t know, but it’s definitely interesting to say the least!” (D.S.)

Personal Analysis:

It seems cannabis in California can now not only be purchased at medical dispensaries, but in churches as well.  This is made possible by the very foundation of America, religious freedom.  American citizens have the right to practice their religion without fear of persecution.  If cannabis is in fact considered to be a religious sacrament, then it seems legal that it would be consumed for religious purposes.

I feel this item can be classified as a folk belief.  It appears that subscribers to this religion maintain that this plant is holy.  Simultaneously, they belief that this is the plant to heal all nations is formed on popular conceptions about cannabis.  It is held by many that cannabis makes its users more peaceful, as also explained by the informant.  While this may invite discussions about belief, there is not much evidence at all to support that cannabis makes its users violent.  Thus it is certainly understandable how this folk belief may have developed.

At the same time, it is also possible that the founder of this church had a separate agenda.  He basically found a loophole which allows him to legally profit off of the selling of an illegal substance.  By merely charging a one hundred dollar fee to join the church, he has the potential to generate significant amounts of revenue.  Smokers will likely flock to this religion just in order to legally purchase marijuana.  Thus, the founder of the church will profit off of each new convert. This makes it hard to tell what his intentions and beliefs truly are.

Folk Ritual/Material Lore/Saying

El Arte de Liar

– Folk Ritual / Material Lore / Saying

El Arte De Liar

The Art of Bundling

The Art of Rolling

“When learning to roll joints or blunts, you find yourself on a very long road to perfection.  People spend years trying to perfect their technique, and the variation of such techniques is truly astonishing.  There are blunt wraps of all shapes and rolling papers of all sizes.  They all serve a slightly different purpose.  Some are rolled with the intention of creating a slow burning pleasurable experience.  Others are rolled with the purpose of burning fast and steady.  Some wraps and papers are flavored in order to mask the smoke, and some are flavorless allowing you to truly savor the rich tastes emitted from the fresh herb.  Whatever your preference, it is best to have a specialty.  Your choice in specialty is not always chosen, as generally, it is inherited by whoever first taught you how to roll.  The basic principle applies to most blunts and joints, you place the ground up grass on the flat surface of the wrap or paper.  You then attempt to roll that item creating a cylinder like shape throughout its entirety.  You then seal the item, either by lighting it or by licking it.  If needed, you place a carb on the end and twist the top.” (A.G.)

Informer Analysis:

“Rolling is considered an art.  You must strive to roll the most perfect joint or blunt that you possibly can, as consistently as possible.  People will often comment upon and complement excellence, but scoff at or ridicule failure.  It is a tough business, but you must aim to always improve until you have mastered your technique.  The reason it is best to specialize is because it allows everyone to bring their own contribution to the table.  If one person is excellent at rolling Js while the other is best at Bs, together you flexibility to smoke whatever you prefer.” (A.G.)

Personal Analysis:

The informant does a great job in analyzing the item.  All I have to add is that material lore is generally classified as that which is made by one’s hands.  It is unofficial and is passed down in order to survive.  The art of rolling fits the bill perfectly.  It is clearly unofficial as there is no one set way to roll.  At the same time, techniques remain alive only as a result of them having been passed down.  It appears that having the ability to roll has become an esteemed component of the smoking world.  It allows the roller to contribute to his/her group of friends, thus contributing to the sense of community and sharing.  People take great pride in their artwork, and in this particular case, it can be recreated time and time again.

Folk Belief/Superstition

White Lighter Superstitions

– Folk Belief / Superstition

“…you know that white lighters are bad luck? I know lots of n*ggas have gotten fucked using white lighters.  One of my boys had just bought a bomb ass triple chamber bubbler, right?  And like three days later he’s uhh … he’s usin this white lighter to fire it up.  Now, we were outside cause he was tryin to be all careful cause he don’t want his girl to know hes still smoking. N*gga lets loose and shatters that shit on the floor of his balcony.  Of course when we tryin to clean it up, his girl eyes him.  He was in big shit.  I heard another story from my homegirl in downtown.  She said her cuz was out with some fuckin n*ggas in Long Beach. They was sparking some masta kush in the car while parked out on out Ocean. When her cousin was passed the pipe, he uhh, he pulled out his white lighter.  As soon as the n*gga lit the bowl, the fuckin bitch ass police pull up.” (L.M.T.)

Informant Analysis:

“I heard bout white lighters back a few years ago.  I don’t know how true the whole thing is, but I heard enough to know not to buy em.” (L.M.T.)

Personal Analysis:

It’s hard to tell how exactly this superstition began, although I have heard similar stories from other informants.  All the stories tend to involve broken pieces, the police, or simply just a lost lighter.  I figure these same misfortunes occur with all color lighters, but greater attention is paid to that of white lighters due simply to the stigma that has since surrounded them.  Perhaps white lighters may have been easier to spot by the police.  This is made possible in that white lighters might help distinguish cannabis smokers from cigarette smokers due to the resin that builds on the bottom of the lighter.  This resin would be much more noticeable on a white lighter than on any of the darker colors.

It seems this story would most often be told when one literally possesses a white lighter.  It could serve as a conversational item amongst smokers.  Some might take it more seriously than others, but most active bearers of the folklore would probably be prompted to state their dismay upon seeing another’s use of the lighter.  Superstitions amongst smokers may be heightened by the effects of the cannabis itself.  It is rumored that cannabis has the potential to make its users exhibit signs of paranoia.  This paranoia might trigger a smoker to fear and avoid white lighters.

Some smokers might use this superstition to their advantage.  It seems that unintentional lighter theft is rampant in the smoking community.  One might be less likely to pocket a white lighter if familiar with the superstition.  White lighters may, therefore, be a less attractive item, hence stolen less often.

Folk Belief/Legend

Reefer Propaganda

– Folk Belief / Legend

“You know that the American historical background to the illegalization of Marijuana was simply a scam by William Randolph Hearst to help the flourishing of his paper empire?  Wow ok, well one of the  … what a lot of people point to as the umm as the beginning point for legislation against marijuana in the United States… Ok… It, being hemp, was obviously one of the major crops for creating paper and textiles, and in fact in WWII, the government subsidized US farmers to create hemp.  They needed it for sails, rope, and paper and all kinds of shit like that.  It was widely known that it was used for purposes like that.  But Diesel… well the guy who created the Diesel engine, his first fuel was made out of Hemp Oil.  It was widely known that at the time, fossil fuels… the refining processes for fossil fuels and oil was really crude.  And they left a lot of residue for any engine using it.  Hemp seed oil was really renewable, and it has a tendency to help the soil instead of destroying it like corn does.  So you ask, why would people illegalize it, especially back then, the hemp plant didn’t contain a lot of THC.  The strains that were being used had a low flowering capacity.  They were ideal for making textiles.  So the guy that invented diesel knew that hemp seed oil was the best thing to use for his engines, and the textile and paper companies knew that hemp was perfect for that as well.  Until whale oil kind of upended the hemp seed oil.  But anyhow, William Randolph Hearst happened to be buddies with a guy name Dupont.  Dupont discovered … among other things in the chemical labs back in the 20s … that one of the things they stumbled across was a really effective process for turning cellulous fiber into paper.  Formally, making a tree into a sheet of paper was considered an arduous and costly process.  Dupont, however, came up with a really good process to effectively turn trees into paper.  One day he was discussing it randomly with William Randolph Hearst, and Hearst happened to have a stockpile of forest and timber that was not being used for anything, he was happy to hear this.  In order to prevent losing a fortune to the hemp growing farmers, Hearst started an unbelievable anti-marijuana campaign.  So basically, he ran a major slanderous campaign, hence the birth of films like Reefer Madness in the 20s, as well as like a national, scourge of a America – Reefer Madness.  Reefer Madness was blatent and clear propaganda against marijuana.  They claimed that marijuana made people violent, and that it was a severe gateway drug, etc.  They ran the campaign relentlessly until Congress finally decided to Legislate.  And there you have it.  The greed of one man and the sorrow of a nation. (J.C.)

Informant Analysis:

“I think it is obvious that the ban on marijuana should be lifted.  Hemp is still a valuable commodity to this country, and it is far safer for the environment.  I find it ridiculous that one man’s relentless agenda for the spreading of propaganda could have such a major affect on the country.  If weed were legalized, thousands… no, tens of thousands of people if not more would benefit from the medicinal qualities alone.  Furthermore, the revenue that it would generate for the government would be huge and it would significantly help in the lowering of our deficit.” (J.C.)

Personal Analysis:

Clearly, this legend invites a certain bit of discussion in regards to belief.  I had never heard this story, but it seems rather plausible.  Hearst clearly had a personal vetted interest in making hemp and marijuana illegal.  What is most fascinating about this legend is that Hearst was successful in his attempts!  This just goes to show the power of folklore.  By adhering to pop culture, such as with the film, Reefer Madness, and by relentlessly targeting marijuana as a scapegoat and gateway drug, it is no surprise that cannabis would be slapped with a ban.  It is unfortunate that Congress didn’t see past his agenda.  Regardless, the informant is clearly somewhat biased.  There is research to suggest that there are some negative effects of cannabis, however, at the same time, the fact that our government has allowed alcohol and tobacco to remain untouched is more of a shock.  Honestly, it appears that the United States is on its merry way to legalization.

Folk Belief

Rasta Man

– Folk Belief

“Rastafari is not a religion, it is a lifestyle.  It is the way you decide to live man.  In Rastafarian, we don’t believe that weed is, is a drug.  Weed makes you do what you really wanna do.  It brings out the real you.  When… when Rastafarians smoke weed, they use it to meditate on something, on something positive.  That is why for us it is not a drug, its good because it makes us exchange and create, yah.  It doesn’t help Rastas only, it helps… that’s why we believe we should be able to smoke our weed everywhere you want.  It helps sick people, like people can’t sleep sometime, they use weed.  Weed helps artists to create things.  So weed is for creation, not for destruction.” (R.B.M.)

Informant Analysis:

“Rastas are a big part of Rwanda.  But they exist all over the world.  They are not just in Africa and Jamaica man.  They are everywhere.  We believe in many things, but weed is very important to us.  It is not a drug, but a blessing.  It frees you and lets you be who you are man.” (R.B.M)

Personal Analysis:

It is apparent that cannabis has many uses and functions.  Some societies view these functions differently.  Some view these uses as inhibiting and as negative, but others see them as uplifting and as positive.  It is simply just a matter of viewpoints and opinions.  Where some feel it is immoral, others feel it is necessary.  Whatever the case, it is definite that cannabis can be used for the betterment of the soul and for the mind.

Although there exists a vast amount of criticism when it comes to marijuana, it is important to see both sides of the spectrum.  Rastas see the experience as purely beneficial, and almost as medicinal.  They use it to aid in meditation, creation, and reflection.  Simultaneously, when needed, they use it medicinally to help prevent insomnia and body pain.

Interestingly, these spiritual and constructive uses of cannabis manifest themselves in popular culture.  In The Unfinished Tales, Tolkien makes several references to pipe-weed.  One protagonist, Gandalf, is quoted saying, “Yon might find that smoke blown out cleared your mind of shadows within. Anyway, it gives patience, to listen to error without anger.” Hence, Tolkien, like the informant, feels that this herb helps cleanse the mind and soul of worries and negativity.  They use this plant responsibly and practically, thus affirming that cannabis does not purely reap destruction, but that instead, it can stimulate creation.

Annotation: The quote above can be found within the following annotation, along with additional information about the peaceful and positive effects of weed.

Tolkien, J. R. R., Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, The Hunt for the Ring, ISBN 0-395-29917-9