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The Three Little Numbers On Cannabis Culture


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Where 420 came from and how people in the Palouse spending April 20.

It's pronounced "four-twenty." Not "four-two-zero," or "four-hundred twenty." The three-digit number isn't an area code or password. It represents a holiday that surpasses time zones for marijuana users all over the world.

Spencer*, a freshman agribusiness major, first celebrated 420 when he was 16 — his sophomore year of high school. He said that ever since, it's been one of his favorite days.

"420 is the greatest holiday of the year," Spencer said. "On 420, you're not the pothead. Everyone is a pothead." THE BIRTH OF 420 Ask Spencer and his friend Evan*, a freshman history major, where the term "420" originated, and they wouldn't be able to tell you. In fact, you might be hard-pressed to find someone who can.

WSU history professor LeRoy Ashby reckoned it might have a connection to a radio station from the early 1970s. Wikipedia attributes the term "420" to a comic book series of the same decade that featured a character named "Captain Cannabis." Books didn't assist the research process. Countless books on drug use, cannabis and marijuana at the Holland and Terrell libraries fail to mention 420 in their indexes.

Even WSU Police Cpl. Nathan Hahn couldn't pinpoint its origin.

"I actually Googled it," Hahn said. "It mentioned a group of students in California. But I can tell you it's not the statutory code for marijuana." Here's what is known:

* California Penal Code Section 420 has nothing to do with marijuana. On the contrary, it discusses access to and obstruction to entry of public land. n In late 2003, Senate Bill 420 regarding medical marijuana was signed by outgoing California Governor Gray Davis. However, 420's connection to marijuana culture was present long before this bill. Therefore, it can't be the origin.

* The approximate number of active chemicals in marijuana is not 420. Marijuana culture magazine High Times reported that the actual number is 315.

Hahn's speculations coincide with a 420 theory that High Times editor-in-chief Steven Hager supported in a 2002 article. * According to Hager, he was contacted by a San Rafael, Calif., group called the "Waldos" who claim to have started the 420 tradition in 1971. The Waldos said they would meet daily after school to smoke pot at 4:20 p.m., and used the term "420" as a code word in public to refer to marijuana.

Regardless of the actual origin, Evan and Spencer said the appeal of 420 lies in the culture behind the drug.

"The origin sounds like something a smart smoker would know. I loved weed from the beginning, but my first 420 was like — wow," said Evan, who celebrated the holiday for the first time last year. "It had such a culture to it." Spencer agreed. "It's a very ancient tradition," he said. "Here's the thing about 420. You don't want to go to parties with a bunch of strangers. You want to spend it with your non-family family. You smoke with good friends all day. It's a family day." 420 AND THE LAW Hahn and Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said they haven't noticed an increased number of drug-related arrests on April 20 in years past.

There will be no extra patrolling and no extra officers on staff Friday evening, Hahn said, with the exception of the four to 10 WSU officers who are regularly scheduled to work at that time.

"[420] is not a recognized holiday by the WSU PD," Hahn said. "But students shouldn't expect leniency. It doesn't matter if they're a first-time user or a regular user." If caught, Hahn said, the consequences can be grim:

*Possession of paraphernalia and possession of less than 40 grams marijuana is a gross misdemeanor.

* Possession of marijuana over 40 grams is a felony. If caught, students can be charged, convicted and become ineligible for academic grants and loans. "They want to make sure you're being a good citizen while at school," Hahn said.

If charged with a felony for marijuana, Hahn said, a student could also be ineligible for federal jobs in the future — especially in the areas of teaching, working with children, civil service and law enforcement.

"It has a really negative impact, especially for college students," Hahn said. "There are ramifications for the decisions you do make. Students need to realize they're responsible for their own behavior." n As for dealers, "they're outta here," Hahn said. "Their behavior is not tolerated and not what society wants to tolerate." CELEBRATING WITHOUT LIGHTING UP There are options for those who wish to partake in 420 without the bong — or joint, or blunt, for that matter.

Saturday will mark the 11th Annual Moscow Hempfest. Sandwiched between 420 and Earth Day, event coordinator Arlene Falcon said its purpose is to celebrate the many uses of the hemp plant.

"We're going to have great music and more information about hemp," said Falcon, who also is the owner of Tye Dye Everything in Moscow. "In past years, the event didn't really reflect hemp information. I'm emphasizing education this year." This year's slogan is "Hemp Can Save the World," and the logo — a marijuana leaf — has alternative uses of hemp written inside it. They include fuel, textiles and food.

The festival will run from 10 a.m. until dusk at East City Park in Moscow. It's also free and will feature vendors, musical guests, speakers and food.

Falcon said, the event, which coincides with the University of Idaho Mom's Weekend, has drawn large numbers of student-mother pairs in the past.

"Moms and kids just love it," Falcon said. "It really works out." MAINTAINING TRADITION In nearly four decades since the cult holiday allegedly originated, options have developed for smokers and nonsmokers alike to celebrate — or at least enjoy the fellowship aspect of it.

Yet, due to personal choice, Evan said, he won't be participating in 420 this year.

"It's really sad, because I was really looking forward to it," he said. "I won't even leave my room all day. I'm afraid I'll smoke." Spencer, on the other hand, is ready to celebrate.

"Honestly," Spencer said, "I look forward to 420 all year." *Editor's Note: Last names have been excluded to protect sources' identities.

NEWSHAWK: Shadylady 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
SOURCE: The Daily Evergreen
AUTHOR: Monique LeTourneau
CONTACT: The Daily Evergreen Online
COPYRIGHT: The Daily Evergreen
WEBSITE: The Daily Evergreen Online - MiX - Features
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