The 420 Rule
We have all heard about the power of numbers, and how mathematic principles are somehow at the heart of everything that happens in our universe. Most discussions on numerology are enough to leave the average person more than just a little perplexed, and most of us are quite happy to go along with the scientists and mathematicians who espouse the glory and power of numbers. The majority are really only concerned with numbers that apply to us, such as dates, times, and ages, with all those other digits best left to the eggheads of the world.
But then there are those numbers that hold a special meaning to certain groups of individuals; numerical codes that the police use to describe crimes, weird stats that are the lifeblood of many a major sports fan, or the magical 420, which is the only number that really counts for lovers of the bud.
The truth is that even people who have never even caught a sniff of marijuana are aware of the 420 rule, which shows just how much the marijuana culture has made its way into everyday life. For those who have never heard of it, the 420 rule can be applied in a couple of ways, with the most common being that smokers light up on April 20th at 4.20 in a mass celebration of the smoking culture. Regular smokers are also high on, pardon the pun, smoking their weed at 4.20 am or pm on any given day of the week.
The public perception of the 420 rule has grown, thanks in large part to it being mentioned on TV and radio in the days leading up to the big event. Those in opposition of legalizing marijuana will point to that and say that it glorifies an illegal activity and that in doing so it will attract hordes of non-smokers to light up and give marijuana a try for the first time, just so that they can be a part of such a well-known event. The fact that many first time smokers are encouraged to do so at 4.20 has nothing to do with peer pressure, and more to do with the fact that people like to be part of cliques and clubs, with those folks most likely to try smoking weed at some point in their life anyway. Almost everyone likes to be part of a bigger crowd, and if that’s the case, then they might as well make it a cool one.
Origins of the 420 Rule
We are a species that likes to define ourselves in certain ways, which usually means that we splinter off into little subcultures that we feel define out personality. Even those who claim to swim against the tide, or rage against conformity of any sort, still seem to manage to fall into a group of some sort. We all like to think of ourselves as individuals, but there is also a need to find folks with ideas and likes that match our own, if only to prove to the masses that we are right and they are wrong. One group that would definitely be considered counter culture is marijuana smokers, even though a recent poll showed that 41% of the US population has tried marijuana at least once. That’s a pretty significant number for an alleged underground group of individuals.
That may account for why so many people are at least somewhat familiar with the terminology and culture of weed smokers, and why the 420 rule in particular seems to have found its way into popular culture. While the vast majority is aware of the 420 rule, most of them have no idea of the origins of it, and it may come as something of a surprise to learn that is also the case for even the most hardened lover of marijuana. It seems that a big part of the 420 rule’s mystique is the seemingly vague nature of its origin.
For those unaware, the 420 rule applies to a time (April 20th at 4.20) when all smokers are encourage to light up in support of the right to smoke. This usually always prompts the question of how it all began, but as I mentioned earlier, no-one really seems to know for sure. The most common explanation of the origins of the rule can be traced back to a Californian named Steve Waldo. It’s believe that he coined the phrase “420 Louie” whilst attending high school in San Rafael. The code was used as a reminder for his buddies to congregate at a statue of Louis Pasteur at 4.20 pm, where the group would then share in their love of weed.
It appears that nobody can truly verify if this really is how the 420 rule came into being, but perhaps more importantly, it also appears that nobody really cares whether it did or not. The 420 rule is something that belongs solely to the stoner culture, but the fact that it has seeped into the regular world is actually considered to be a positive. That leads to people talking about marijuana in general, which in turn usually leads to conversation about the possible legalization of the drug. That the push to have marijuana legalized seems to be gathering steam is proof positive that the drug, as well as the people who regularly smoke it, are becoming more socially acceptable. The only real surprise, given how many people have actually taken a few tokes, is how long that it has taken to get moving.
The 420 Rule and Stoner Culture
It wasn’t so very long ago that a kid getting caught with some weed stashed in his bedroom would lead to dramatic family interventions, as well as a serious round of electroshock therapy. There was a definite tendency to overreact, thinking of marijuana in the same terms as other harder drugs, when in truth you can actually do a lot more damage to yourself, and others, by throwing back a six pack of Bud and a 40 of Jack. The demonization of marijuana led the people who regularly used it to be viewed as slackers, stoners, and a black mark on society, which in turn led to a whole new subculture, with the perceived outsiders banding together against “the man”.
That seems like a long time ago now, and many will argue that the reason that the perception has changed so drastically is with the social acceptance of the 420 rule. In the days and hours leading up to 4.20 pm on April 20th, the airwaves and water coolers of the world are filled with talk about the impending big moment. Regular smokers get excited about their “national holiday,” while those who only partake casually, or have never even tried weed, decide that maybe they should join in on the fun. The fact that many people actually now look at 420 as a fun day should be enough to tell you how far marijuana has come from the back rooms of San Francisco head shops.
This should be a glorious moment for stoners of the world, but in reality many of them are grumbling that their culture has somehow been infiltrated, and a major part of what made the whole scene so cool has now been forever lost. People are no longer trying to hide the fact that the smoke weed, and it’s easy to rhyme off any number of big name celebrities and people in elected office who are quite happy to tell you about their latest trip. Perhaps more worryingly for the average smoker, their fun pastime is now being talked about in government circles, with the prospect of raking in even more tax money making the legalization of marijuana a hot button item.
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