On Twitter there seems to have been a recent outbreak of tweets referring to “420” and the “Mary Jane Day.” Although festivities abound on 4/20, Students at the University of Colorado at Boulder were not celebrating as their campus was closed and officials stopped the annual 4/20 rally.
Regarding the cancellation of the 4/20 rally and closure of campus, University spokesman Bronson Hilliard said, “We don’t consider this a protest. We consider this people smoking pot in the sunshine. This is a gathering of people engaging in an illegal activity.”
A student leader disagreed saying, “I do not see any justification for the university shutting it down,” and adding that the action goes against the students’ First Amendment rights.
This year 4/20 comes with numerous political movements advocating for the decriminalization of non-medical cannabis in the United States. This is at a time when voters in Colorado and Washington are scheduled to vote on legalization in the fall.
Similar to many traditional holidays, 4/20 has been commercialized. Concerts by “pot-friendly” musicians like Willie Nelson and Cypress Hill and the showing of a documentary on Bob Marley, considered a hero of cannabis supporters, were all planned for April 20. Popular marijuana dispensaries such as at the one at Harborside Health Center in Oakland offered deals on ounces of marijuana for those with medical licenses, as well as free mugs and T-shirts for buyers.
Although 4/20 is a common reference nowadays, the origin of the phrase is relatively unknown. According to Wikipedia and other sources, the earliest use of the term began among a group of teenagers in San Rafael, California, in 1971. The group called themselves the Waldos. They first used the term in connection with their plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop in 1971. In their plan, The Waldos designated 4:20 PM as their meeting time. Furthermore, they named the plan “4:20 Louis,” and with their multiple failed attempts to find the crop, they eventually shortened it to “4:20.” This developed into a codeword that police used to designate the occurrence of a marijuana event, and one that teens used to refer to pot smoking in general. The code was spread by followers of the Grateful Dead and stuck because parents and authorities often did not know what it meant.