A Little Ditty… About 420

A Little Ditty… About 420

So, as SOME of you may know, today is what is widely called a holiday.

It’s 4/20, ya’ll.

My college friends are smiling and nodding their heads thinking, “go on…”

My mother is probably firmly shaking her head.

Now, I am not drawing attention to this topic for any reason other than hey, I live in Colorado, and given the recent state of affairs concerning marijuana legalization around these here parts, it’s literally everywhere. There are a few contradictory and interesting things that I’ve learned recently about the marijuana industry and I figured the “holiday” would be a good time to compile and research them. I’m also obsessed with “who knew?” tidbits of information around all topics and yes, that includes weed. Not to mention, some of these have really complicated some things and set this industry so very far apart from others of it’s kind that I’m left scratching my head in awe every time.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Where did the term 420 come from and why is it relevant?

In 2012, Huffington Post got an interview with the five men who originally coined the phrase and here’s my summary of their official story of how it was born. 

In the early 70’s, these five guys were a group of teenagers at San Rafael High School in California who called themselves “the Waldos” due to this wall outside the school that they used to meet up and hang out by. In the fall of 1971, the friends heard a rumor about a Coast Guard service member in Point Reyes (somewhere around 20 miles away) who supposedly would not be able to tend his field of marijuana for the harvest, and so they did what any ambitious young stoners would do and they embarked on a road trip to find the field. You know, to “help the guy out” or really just to take home some free bud. They even had a treasure map of sorts to guide them to the magic field of dreams. They agreed to meet outside the school by a statue of Louis Pasteur at 4:20 pm to leave for their adventure, on which they brought their Mary Jane stash and partook in smoking it to Point Reyes and back.

One adventure led to several as the group headed to Point Reyes week after week looking for the field, meeting at 4:20 prior to leaving, and then smoking during the trips.

They never did find the field.

But a new phrase was coined and would forever live in a cloud of smoke infamy!

The phrase “420” spread as a type of secret code for weed. You either understood what a person was really saying to you when they asked, or you didn’t. That was the signal, man.

Around this time, the Grateful Dead had moved into the Marin Hills, an area just a few blocks from San Rafael High School. The Waldos and the Dead had the same social circles and the Waldos were fans of the band. Some of the guys watched the band play frequently and hung out with a couple of the members. The Dead and their fan following got hold of the term and throughout their tours in the 70’s and 80’s, it continued to spread as a terminology for smoking. Finally, the magazine High Times became privy to 420 and they instantly caused it to exponentially expand by bringing it to a global audience.

Since then, it’s been incorporated into our culture all over the place. The movies Pulp Fiction and Lost in Translation show clocks that are set on 4:20. The football scoreboard in Fast Times at Ridgemont High shows 42-0 (if Spicoli wasn’t a character in this movie, I MIGHT have been open to considering this as coincidence). Street signs saying 420 are frequently stolen, to the point that a couple places have even had to put in 419.99 signs instead.

So here we are. The story of how 4:20 became “a thing”. Now you know!

Ever wondered what’s the difference between marijuana and hemp?

Given my science background and work in Genetics, I was excited to find this one on Live Science.

Both Cannabis and hemp are plants in the same species, but the difference is a small gene that hemp plants lack. This missing gene is the one that produces an enzyme aiding in the formation of tetrahydrocannibinolic acid (THCA), a substance that is the precursor to tetrahydrocannibinol (THC). As some readers know, THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Instead of THC, hemp plants produce cannabidiolic acid en masse, a substance that during formation actually competes for resources for that of THCA. It’s also not something one smokes. Hemp is instead used as fiber, oil or seed for various products including rope, cloth and paper and was even grown by George Washington back in the day.

The difference one gene can make!

Speaking of plants in the same family…

Cannabis and hops (used to make beer) are in the same family of flowering plants, only they are classified as an erect herb and a twining herb, respectively. Although I have seen pot-infused beer on the Internet, weed and hops do not contain the same substances and do not serve the same purpose and therefore, no, they cannot be used interchangeably.

While we’re on the topic of beer, many many many studies have actually indicated that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco although heavy smokers can exhibit respiratory symptoms similar to that of a cigarette smoker.

Here are five activities that by Colorado law, are more illegal than marijuana:

  1. Selling cars on Sunday
  2. Drinking raw milk from a cow or goat you don’t own
  3. Drinking rainwater (I mention why in my post Gardening for Beginners)
  4. Soliciting for the Salvation Army
  5. Setting up a lemonade stand for your kids

According to local outlet the Cannabist.

I, for one, am happy about the mandatory absence of that goddamned bell for Salvation Army donations outside the mall entrances at Christmastime! BUT, this also means you can be charged up to $500 for filling up that bong with rainwater! And not for smoking the pot, either. Just say no to rainwater, kids!

Colorado, where medicinal marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks 3 to 1, but you better not sell lemonade in your driveway.

Ironically, the first arrest for possession and sale of marijuana to ever take place happened in Denver, Colorado on October 2, 1937. And California was the first state to ban it, in 1913. Imagine that!

Where does the money go?

I searched pretty hard for this one, and it’s tough to find hard data on who actually receives the benefit of the money that is taxed or made from the marijuana industry. I did find this, again from the Cannabist though this data is open for public knowledge:

Among the taxes collected on retail pot sales is the school-funding 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transfers, which amounted to a record-setting $4 million in February. One of the cornerstones of the campaign that successfully ran Colorado’s pot-legalizing Amendment 64 says that the first $40 million raised by that excise tax will go toward school construction projects.

That specific tax totaled $13.3 million in 2014 and $35 million in 2015, and industry analysts are confident it will easily top $40 million in 2016.

Colorado marijuana outlets sold more than $699 million of product in 2014 and more than $996 million in 2015. Year-over-year totals for taxes and license fees grew too, from $76 million in 2014 to $135 million in 2015.

There are three types of state taxes on recreational marijuana: the standard 2.9 percent sales tax; a 10 percent special marijuana sales tax; and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transfers. For February, Colorado collected more than $12.2 million in recreational taxes and fees and more than $1.9 million in medical taxes and fees.

Looks like someone finally figured out a way to get some money funneled to education, even if it is just construction for now! Wouldn’t it be nice, since if this stays legal the money isn’t going to stop coming in, if Colorado led the way for better pay for teachers and education needs, funded however partially through the excise tax?!

Nobody else seems to want to figure out how to get us there. Why not weed? Reroute the money from the black market into school funding… something to think about!

Banks are federally regulated… but marijuana is federally illegal.

Therefore… businesses flourishing in the marijuana industry (legalized 1/1/14 in CO) were not able to deposit their earnings into banks for some time. All transactions (plenty still are) were cash-only, but this greatly increased the potential for crime whether in the store centered around actual transactions, the storage of cash, or the transport of cash. This created not only a public safety issue, but a real problem for business owners.

A couple important pieces of legislation passed in 2014. The first barred the DEA from interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal, and the second was where President Obama introduced guidance to enable banks to start taking deposits of cash from marijuana businesses, even recreational marijuana businesses, in states/provinces where it is legal.

This sounds cut and dry, but it isn’t, considering our federal government still outlaws the possession or distribution of marijuana. Because of this fact, many banks still do not work with businesses in this industry, and if they do, they are extremely wary of the federal law.

In between a rock and a hard place, alright. Read more on this complication here.

On another note, I have been getting a kick out of the creative business concepts that some local folks have come up with, to include but not limited to, the Bud and Breakfast, Puff, Pass and Paint (similar to your typical wine and painting classes), or you can take 420 bus tours (kinda like a brewery bus tour) through the city. Far out, man!

Will the Mile High Stadium get renamed in the near future?

Currently, the stadium is called Sports Authority Field as Sports Authority, a large retailer headquartered in Denver, bought the naming rights to the field in 2011 under a 25-year contract. However, just in February 2016, Sports Authority declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, so the future of this deal could be a little hazy. The sponsorship of a stadium such as this can bring in high dollar marketing profits, but whether or not there is time for Sports Authority to recover, or whether their Chapter 11 plan allows for them to retain these rights would appear to be up in the air currently.

There is one really interested business who has publicly offered to buy the naming rights should Sports Authority have to cede them. That would be a local marijuana dispensary called Native Roots.

Native Roots Field at Mile High it would be called.

Guess we wait and see.

Some interesting facts about marijuana ’round the world

  • In North Korea, weed isn’t even classified as a drug (source)
  • In India, it’s not uncommon to consume marijuana in a milkshake form called Bhang (source)
  • In 2008, 789 grams of 2700-year-old pot were found buried in a Chinese tomb (source)
  • In Australia, the Sex Party, claiming to protect personal freedoms and sexual rights, is looking to legalize marijuana, euthanasia, censorship, abortion, and taxation of the church (source)
  • In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to make it legal to grow, buy and consume marijuana aka the TRADE of the product (source)
  • In Bhutan, marijuana grows as common as grass, and was only ever used to feed pigs before the advent of TV (source). Just imagine how chill all those pigs are.
  • In 2008 in Dubai, a British man was sentenced to 4 years in jail when customs officers found a 0.003g trace of marijuana in a cigarette stub on the bottom of his shoe. He was pardoned 7 days later. (source)
  • The first transaction that ever took place on the Internet was the sale of a bag of weed by an MIT student to a Stanford student (source)
  • The word assassin actually derives from the Arabic hashish meaning outcast (one might liken to a druggie)
  • La Cucaracha, a popular Mexican ditty, gained a new verse during the Mexican Revolution referencing the 420 drug:
Spanish English
La cucaracha, la cucaracha, The cockroach, the cockroach,
ya no puede caminar can’t walk anymore
porque no tiene, porque le falta because it doesn’t have, because it’s lacking
marihuana que fumar. marijuana to smoke.

This verse was even sang by the cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzalez! Here’s the video.

You’re welcome for getting the Cockroach song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

At least it’s 420 approved.

Now get out and enjoy the day however you choose.


Does your city or region put on any 420 celebrations? If so, tell me about them! 

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2 thoughts on “A Little Ditty… About 420

  1. Debbie Sweeney

    This is your mother. I am shaking my head. I am smiling. I am a child of the 70’s. Well- researched and interesting! Hope you aren’t over-researching this particular blog, Missy!

  2. Kara

    I have read SO much legislation in the banking laws on this. At this time, even if it was legal, I probably wouldn’t accept a relationship at work. Too many questions, but quite the conundrum indeed! Good research!

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