Written By: Carly Fisher
Come closer, I am going to let you in on a little secret: until recently asked, I had no idea where the term 4/20 originated. It’s true! Hopefully, this admission provides some reassurance to those who are new to the game that you can always learn new things—and still humble yourself 20 years later.
Despite being a seasoned weed witch who has called upon Miss Mary Jane in all her countless, beautiful forms since I was a teen and a veteran cannasseur capable of developing a complex alignment of the psychological effects of cannabinoids and terpenes with the mystical lunar cycles of the astrological calendar, I was somehow completely clueless about the ubiquitous sequence of numbers gracing the sides of bongs, commemorated as an universally recognized day of shamelessly toking up and among the most frequently-used gif files on my Instagram stories. Imagine my embarrassment.
High History: A Brief 4/20 Recap
Like many others, I was under the false impression that “420” was a police code for the possession of marijuana.
It turns out that it is not, though, in an ironic twist of fate, is now being used within enacted legislature as a bureaucratic wink-nod to the culture, such as H.R. 420 Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, the S.420 Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act and California Senate Bill 420.
The real story remains a well-documented countercultural urban legend, immortalized by former High Times legacy editor, Steven Hager, who recounts a group of pot-smoking teens under the guise “the Waldos” who coined the term in the 1970s at San Rafael High School in California, where they’d use “420” as a shorthand for their regular smoke ups at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur at—you guessed it—4:20 p.m.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “‘Waldo Steve,’ a member of the group who now owns a business in San Francisco, says the Waldos would salute each other in the school hallway and say ‘420 Louis!’” The term eventually became a catch-all dog whistle to discreetly refer to marijuana and its effects.
Today, the term has been adopted as a global day of civil disobedience and political reckoning for the legalization, regulation, and decriminalization of industrial hemp, medical marijuana and recreational cannabis, as well as calls for reparative justice for marginalized communities unfairly impacted by the War on Drugs. This includes smoke- filled concerts. protests, marches, performance art, dancing, parties and other demonstrations in cities around the world, like New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Berkeley, Denver, Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico City and Montreal.
And if you work in the weed industry?
Expect a pretty heavy workday! Just like picking up a shift on New Year’s Eve, it’s always more fun to not be working, but certainly do-able.
While the West Coast helped pioneer what we presently know as the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry, speculation continues to surround the future of New York and how that will influence the rest of the country in the wake of legalization. A certain amount of mental gymnastics are often required to make sense of this cultural paradox filled with murky areas of accessibility, quality and acceptable social norms impacting so many communities. It’s at once omnipresent and covert; serious and unserious; inclusive and exclusive.
For that reason, it remains a bit ironic that many users still face hurdles overcoming reductive stigmas and labels when you consider the tremendous complexities that exist scratching beneath the surface. From the fundamental realities of local and international governing law, taxation, business practices, agriculture, and medtech that will impact innumerable conditions, to points of differentiation and advancement within holistic health, the emergence of luxury goods, bioethical considerations and the legitimization of ancient ritualistic practices and standard intake. So much for being “a stupid Pothead.”
Once upon a time, you‘d get what you’d get.
Often, that meant taking a whiff of a bag, saying “Smells good,’ then handing off a wad of cash to your dealer.
Occasionally, there might be a choice between sativa or indica, and a strain name. Lucky travelers might incur some local flavor in the form of legendary and landrace strains like pineapple-laced Maui Wowee in Hawaii, Amnesia Haze in the Netherlands, Lamb’s Breath in Jamaica, Acapulco Gold in Mexico, Durban Poison in South Africa or Thai Stick in Thailand.
The most enlightening discovery, however, is the covert history of medical patients who had been using cannabis to self-treat conditions, including Rick Simpson, who famously healed his skin cancer with a highly concentrated cannabis oil dubbed Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) that he supplied to others free of charge along with DIY tips for making at home, as well as the underground marijuana brownie delivery business, Sticky Fingers Brownies, operated by Meridy Volz in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS crisis and documented in her daughter Alia Volz’s journalistic memoir, Home Baked. That’s not counting the countless ancient healers who have integrated the plant within their practices pre-dating prohibition.
420 Vibes Post-Prop 64
Post-legalization along the West Coast has given rise to a new wave of finely engineered hybrid strains and luxury products ranging from gourmet edibles and finely crafted stash boxes to sumptuous bath bombs and top-shelf, small batch, intelligently designed products (thanks, Kush Queen!).
2 years ago, New York City announced the passing of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) —bizarrely the day before April Fool’s. The city was mostly quiet, as I walked through the Village after long periods of isolated captivity. A dry herb vaporizer miraculously showed up, which I took to the Hudson River, where I sat in the misty rain watching the boats sail by as I cried—crying with relief, joy and grief.
By the time 4/20 arrived, Washington Square Park became its annual spectacle, heralding warmer days filled with flowers and the promise of a new wave of culture emerging from so much darkness. Cities around the world followed suit, smoking up in solidarity.
So, what is 420 to me?
A moment to relax. A moment for self-care. A moment to feel and experience things, earnestly.
And it is undeniably also a multi-billion dollar stock commodity now that transcends realities through the Metaverse. You can look at it in so many ways.
Honestly, that’s one of the things I love the most about Kush Queen: it isn’t hard to understand and a test drive a bath bomb. Many people will not treat themselves to baths or moments of self-care when they’re stressed out, overwhelmed, tired, or just want to do something nice for themselves.
There is so much work to be done that most of it will probably not happen in our own lifetime. But we can feel grateful and appreciate what an incredible time it is to consider the limitless possibilities of another green world.