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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.