Today is an underground holiday, of sorts. Nobody knows when it started, or how it started, but, I assure you, more people than you can imagine will partake in it.
“Four Twenty” (or 4:20 or 4/20) is something of an urban legend, (sub)cultural joke, and community-building practice all rolled into one. (Hehehehe, he said “rolled.”) For those of you who don’t know (and, really, if you found this, you do) it refers to a time of day (and, annually, a day of the year) when people are supposed to get high by smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana.
Depending on the generation “observing” the feast, it has been alternately a form of collective political rebellion (thumbing one’s nose at a law prohibiting the very celebration in question); a mark of a distinctive generational status (“we” get high but “they” didn’t); and a form of nurturing an “imagined” community (no matter where you are, if you get high at 4:20 or at 4:20 on 4/20 then you are not getting high alone).
As with any cultural phenomena based more on rumor and humor than on any single historical event, there’s no particular reason for this. Legend has it that 4-20 is the part of the criminal code somewhere which makes smoking pot a crime. It’s not, but that doesn’t stop the story from being told from one generation to the next. Others have (more recently) linked it to urban legends about happenings at high schools (the time detention got out at one; the locker number of where one dealt the contraband at another). I suspect the events at Columbine in 1999 may have had something to do with linking it in the collective memory to some kind of high school rebellion, but those rumors, too, are just that.
The tradition continues, however, as it probably will for the, well, forever. As somebody who works on a college campus, I am never surprised to see the “next” generation’s participation in this version of “pot culture.” Ten years from now, most of those doing what they’re doing, will either be non-smokers remembering their youthful indiscretions, teetotalers trying to get the “drugs away from our children,” or addicts.
Which will you be? Huh? Yeah, I’m talking to you. Imagine that! Me! Talking to you!! And we’ve never even met!!! And you’re just sitting there, at your computer, with all that belly-button lint!! And I’m using so many exclamation marks! Did you ever notice how that word was spelled: e-x-c-l-a-m-a-t-i-o-n. The word “clam” is in there? And “mation”! My god, I have to Google search “mation”!!
But, today, they were people who alter their mental state by imbibing an herb that modern U.S. society has decided to criminalize.
And now, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, Broadway legend CAROL CHANNING!!!!