Four Twenty – Folk Holiday

On 4.20.2011, I heard many students around me mention a celebration of something known as Four Twenty or 420. Investigating into it, I found that it was a folk holiday where people celebrated the use of marijuana. Interviewing one informant on the holiday, he said the following:

“Collector: So, what is four twenty?

Informant: Four twenty is when people go out and they smoke the dope… a lot.

Collector: What’s the dope?

Informant: Weed.

Collector: So where does four twenty come from?

Informant: I’ve always heard it as the police code for possession of marijuana is like Four Twenty…I’m not sure, it’s just what it’s called.

Collector: So do you know anybody that has celebrated Four Twenty?

Informant: Well, on Four Twenty, my friends would go out and smoke at like 4:20 p.m, ideally.

Collector: So on Four Twenty, everybody would be smoking weed?

Informant: Yep.

Collector: Where did you learn this?

Informant: Just at school, all my friends did it.

Collector: Where did they learn it from?

Informant: Well one of friends is notoriously bad and he spread it to us.

Collector: Ok, well, what do you think the importance of four twenty is?

Informant: I don’t think it has any significance, it’s just an excuse for people to go out and smoke weed–but it’s widely celebrated.”

My informant is a Caucasian American who grew up in Los Altos, California. In his interview, he considers Four Twenty a somewhat real and legitimatized holiday that one celebrates with one’s friends–a holiday where he and his friends would go out and smoke marijuana. It is interesting to note that while much marijuana related activity is illegal in America, this sort of folk holiday is still prevalent among the teenage youth culture (especially when California Proposition 19 was not passed). The focus of Four Twenty seems not on the day or the holiday but the a sort of bond or camaraderie between smoking partners, such as friends.

I, the collector, when walking around the college dormitory, was actually invited to smoke marijuana with acquaintances I met or knew throughout the school year. Thus, I am sure the emphasis of the holiday is not on the act of smoking marijuana, but on a certain joy in knowing one shares a culture with another–a marijuana culture.

In addition, as my informant mentioned, the origin of 4.20 could perhaps be a police code for the possession of marijuana. No matter if it is true or not, this suggests Four Twenty as a part of a rebel culture, where one breaks the law or the rules that govern one’s actions.