Ask a Stoner: What's the deal with 4/20?

Dear Stoner:

What is up with 4/20? Why is that like the St. Paddy's Day for potheads?

Nada Mota

Dear Nada: The most plausible explanation comes from Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim. A story he wrote in 2009 describes how five kids at San Rafael High School in the early 1970s heard about a clandestine pot-grow operation that had been abandoned. They decided to meet up at 4:20 one afternoon after school to search for it. Although they never found the crop, they continued to use the phrase as a code for smoking herb. So how did this catchphrase used by a small group of California high-school kids spread far and wide? According to Grim, the missing link was the Grateful Dead. One of the kid's dads was friends with the band, so all of the teens were Deadheads by default. They began spreading the 4/20 reference around that community, using it when getting high with the Dead and their hangers-on. But the real explosion came during the band's Christmas 1990 Oakland run, when Celebrity Stoner founder and former High Times editor Steve Bloom was handed a flier in the parking lot before the show advertising the first organized mass 4/20 gathering. The secret stoner event was held at Mt. Tamalpais outside of Mill Valley; Bloom wrote it that May, and High Times continued to use the term over the years. With time, it spread from herb smoker to herb smoker — until it developed into the annual celebration of activism and getting high that it is today.

Dear Stoner: If a mosquito bites you while you're smoking a joint, will it get high?

Buggin' Out

Dear Buggin': What a classic stoner musing! I can remember sitting poolside with a bong in college, wondering the same thing.

Sadly for the mosquito, there's no buzz to be had out of the active THC in your blood. According to a 2001 British study conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals, insects are among the few beings on earth that don't have cannabinoid receptors. Birds, fish, mussels and even sea urchins, for example, all have cannabinoid receptors.

But while we're on the subject of bug inebriation, it turns out they can get drunk — though not likely from sipping on your blood. Studies have shown that insects can handle as much as 25 times the amount of alcohol, by weight, that humans do before feeling the effects. What's also interesting is that bugs, like people, can be more aggressive toward one another when drunk. If only they'd get high instead.

My Voice Nation Help

i grew up at san rafael high archrival high and that story is's legend mostly but sounds greate


You might want to keep researching. Talk to some Vietnam vets. M16 military rounds come in sardine cans of 420 rounds. I would suspect that there was probalby a lot of pot being transfered around Vietnam in amamo cans. I don't know if this is where it came from but it sure makes more sense that some high school kids on Cali.  

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Dear Stupid Stoner,

How many Eighths are in an Ounce?

Michael Roberts and Christian Sederberg have repeatedly claimed there are 128 eighths in an ounce.

Where can I get one of those ounces?


Man of La Munchies

Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

That's the usual 420 myth. However, if you search online, you'll find an essay with a lot of reasons why Grimm and/or his "sources" are full of shit. That essay is reportedly by one of the actual inner circle at San Rafael HS. The biggest hole in the story is why they met at 4:20 to smoke joints and THEN get into someone's car and drive somewhere. Everyone knows stoners don't go on expeditions, and they aren't athletes, so there was no reason to wait for 4:20. The more plausible story is that a bunch of stoners were sitting around and actually thought there was something funny about the time 4:20 (because they're stoners, and they think just about anything's funny.) Then it became a teen-age substitute word for just about everything.

Search for the story. I'm sure you'll find it.


Then you should fit right in.