420: A Marijuana Mystery Lights Up Speculation

420: A Marijuana Mystery Lights Up Speculation
Posted by FoM on April 20, 2001 at 07:43:18 PT
By Cynthia J. McGroarty, Inquirer Suburban Staff 
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Hippie New Year. Pot Smoker's Holiday. A counterculture kind of coffee break. That's 420. Four twenty. To marijuana users, this insider term means it's time to chill, pull out the papers, and roll a joint.And on this April 20, as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) holds its annual conference in Washington, marijuana smokers around the country remain as clueless as ever about how this national day of weed worship began nearly 30 years ago.
Nonusers are even more clueless. Most have never heard of 420.That's part of the 420 mystique, said Karen Bettez Halnon, an assistant professor of sociology at Penn State-Abington. "Research shows it's the vague quality that sustains marijuana-smoker identity," she said.Halnon recently presented research findings to the Pacific Sociology Association on the purported meanings of 420, the numerical code word that can be found on T-shirts, patches, marijuana pipes and other paraphernalia. Her study grew out of an extra-credit assignment she gave students when she taught at a large university in the Northeast.As she checked out the students' claims, Halnon said, she discovered the theories "were either wrong or unprovable."For instance, 420 is not the Los Angeles Police Department's crime code for a marijuana arrest, she said. Neither is it the number of chemical compounds found in THC - tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana - or the address that members of the Grateful Dead lived at in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury section, or the time of guitarist Jerry Garcia's death, or a biblical reference from the book of Mark, or teatime in Amsterdam, where pot is legal.The theory that 420 represents the clock-hands angle at 4:20, like a Jamaican Rastafarian's "dangling doobie," is dubious, Halnon said, but creative.A Web site -- -- offers the commonly held belief that the 420 terminology was started in the early 1970s by a group of California high school students who called themselves the Waldos.But clarity does not matter in the sometimes smoky world of 420 insiders, Halnon said. A collective consciousness does.This year, 420 may be moving toward the mainstream with NORML's three-day conference, which is featuring the likes of New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, and American Civil Liberties Union executive director Ira Glasser. The conference is looking at drug laws, the treatment of marijuana in the media, and international movements to decriminalize pot."This is one of the issues where the voters are way out in front of the politicians," said NORML publications director Paul Armantano.NORML does not usually time its conference to fall on April 20, Armantano said, but "this year, we wanted it to coincide with that date."While 420 is often celebrated with public gatherings that may feature public pot smoking, a spokesman at the University of Pennsylvania's Student Life office said today's annual Spring Fling is a coincidence and is not associated with 420.Halnon acknowledged that April 20 is also Adolf Hitler's birthday and the day in 1999 that students and a teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., but she discounts any link with the 420 marijuana observations.Both events, she said, "go against everything the 420 culture represents." At Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, students were abuzz this week about possible incidents planned for the anniversary of the Columbine attack, assistant principal Keith Hammitt said yesterday. But none of the rumors he heard had any association to 420, and none could be substantiated. He would not elaborate.Law-enforcement authorities around the region said last night they had heard of no problems anticipated at any schools to mark the 420 observance.Ridley Township Police Capt. Richard Herron was surprised by the 420 terminology itself."This is the first time I've heard about it," he said. "When you first said it, I was wondering if they were going to demonstrate down on Route 420 or something."Source: Inquirer (PA)Author: Cynthia J. McGroarty, Inquirer Suburban Staff Published: April 20, 2001Copyright: 2001 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.Contact: Inquirer.Letters phillynews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:NORML Pol & the Pot Rouses Choir With Drug Stand Aids Creation, Appreciation of Music
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Comment #3 posted by ras james rsifwh on April 20, 2001 at 14:39:38 PT
for twenty
When the Rastaman rolls a big spliff, he rolls one big enough "for twenty"...420. Give all praise and thanks to Jah Rastafari who liveth and reignith in I and I.
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Comment #2 posted by letsgetfree on April 20, 2001 at 13:38:37 PT
i always thought it was the time of the night when you roll up another j so you can keep partying
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Comment #1 posted by a hippie on April 20, 2001 at 12:19:34 PT:
lets smoke
lets smoke alot
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