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Heymatt:

Where does the term 420 come from? Does it refer to a term used by California state patrol to signal pot smoking in progress? Also the term marijuana-- I know it's a girls name, but where did that originate?

-- Unsigned, out there somewhere

Gack! History from stoners. Problematic at best, man. The counterculture's recording secretary lost her pencil back in the '60s, so we've been guessing ever since. The only sure bet is that racist scaremonger Harry J. Anslinger's name is going to come up somewhere in the answer. He was the spiritual father of Reefer Madness-- director of the federal drug administration from the '30s through the '60s. But he doesn't have anything to do with 420. And it's a sad day in Matthewaliceville when High Times is our most reliable source.

Four-twenty has at least 420 explanations, most bogus. No, 420 isn't copspeak or a penal code number. It's not the number of chemicals in pot, not Jerry Garcia's favorite motel room number, not the date LSD's discoverer took his first trip. What it does seem to be, sez HT, is a private, parent-proof code made up by some kids in Marin County in the early 1970s. Four-twenty was the time they all met after school to smoke dope. The mag claims to have seen letters among some of the boys from their college years with many references to 420. The Grateful Dead are credited with spreading the term's popularity. Today 4/20 is a worldwide stoners holiday. Unfortunately, it's also the anniversary of the Columbine slayings and Hitler's birthday. Whoa, dude�unfortunate coincidence, sez HT.

"Marijuana," of course, is one of dozens of Mexican Spanish slang words for weed. Also the name of a brand of cheap Mexican cigarettes from the early 1900s, though it's likely the cigs came later. No clear source there. But we know it north of the border because the aforementioned Mr. Anslinger chose to use the name "marijuana" instead of the more scientific "cannabis" in his speeches and legislation. This linked the drug directly to the Mexican and black subcultures and was Anslinger's subtle proof that herb was the cause of rape, mayhem, and the downfall of civilized America-- his mantra for 30 years.

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