The Origins of 4/20


By Jonah Amargi-Levy

Four Twenty. There may be no more combination of numbers that is more synonymous with illegal activity and the counter culture movement than these two. Ask any individual on the street today and chances are that they will recognize 4/20 or what it stands for and you are bound to have a similar answer…smoking cannabis. The origins of the “holiday” and its notorious time and date can be found in our own Marin County. According to multiple Tam alums this holiday was started by a group of students from San Rafael High School who would meet at 4:20pm next to a statue at their school in order to smoke marijuana. This time eventually turned into a code word used by teens for smoking weed, and later it became the universal time of the day to consume cannabis. The sheer popularity of this holiday, and how this one day meant for the smoking of weed by a group of friends has turned into a global phenomenon.

In fact the sheer popularity of this event is ruining the main idea behind the celebration. That of being with ones friends and community in celebration has been lost on the focus of celebrating a drug. An example of this shift can be clearly seen in the celebrations that occur on Hippie Hill yearly. This annual gathering is one of the largest and most notable “celebrations” of 4/20, and has for a long time been the poster child for the cannabis culture and positive meaning behind the celebration as a whole. Recently, this gathering has begun to change due to the sheer popularity of the event and to shift from a peaceful gathering to a destructive and disruptive event. In the most recent occurrence there was a highly publicized brawl between attendees of the event leading to one individual striking another with a guitar whilst others took videos making the scene a viral hit. Furthermore, the amount of trash that was left following the conclusion of the event made headlines. According to the Huffington Post the leftover trash and damages to the park cost the city of San Francisco $10,000 to clean up and repair (all for a non sanctioned event). “The actions that took place at Hippie hill go against everything that 4/20 stands for, it is meant to promote peace and happiness and bring people together not pull them apart” said a Tam senior. Another upperclassman stated that, “the crowd was just too big. There was just a weird vibe you could tell something was different.”

What is evident is that this celebration and its meaning are changing, and obviously not for the better. While marijuana is an illegal drug, it is improper to overlook the importance that it has in counter culture and in the lives of the millions of Americans who partake in its use. There is a need for a reevaluation of what this celebration truly means in order to show that it isn’t a celebration of drugs, but of community and togetherness.