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What Does 420 Mean to You?

You've seen it on T-shirts, you've heard it in songs, and you've probably seen it in movies. The number 420 is everywhere, but do you know what it represents? What does 420 mean to you?

On April 20th at 4:20, marijuana smokers around the world will be joining together to light up a joint or take a bong hit. They will share their solidarity by "toking up," knowing that someone, somewhere, is doing the same thing simultaneously. April 20th has been dubbed the "Hippie New Year" and is known to be the date many pro-marijuana organizations host their rallies and lectures. But what's so special about the number 420?

420 has become an iconic symbol in the marijuana culture. For many years, it was an underground term that eventually leaked out into the mainstream and has since become commercialized. You may have noticed people around school sporting 420 on clothing or other merchandise. Even though it is becoming more prominent in the teen culture, most adults and even some teens don't know about the meaning behind 420.

There are varying theories on the origin of the 420 marijuana culture trend. Some say that 420 originated from a police code that announces marijuana use is taking place. Others believe there are 420 chemical components in marijuana (there are, in fact, more than 400 chemical components—making marijuana smoke at least 4 times as harmful as cigarette smoke). Yet another story is that a group of guys in the 1970's made 4:20 their official meeting time to smoke marijuana after school. Whatever the real story is, 420 has been an important part of the marijuana culture since the 1970's. The significance of 420 has been kept underground and is mostly known only among marijuana smokers. Many adults aren't aware of the symbolism when they see a teenager wearing a T-shirt or baseball cap that says 420 across the front.

When the 420 icon is somehow discreetly worked into a mainstream product like a film, marijuana users take notice. The film Pulp Fiction is rumored to have had all clocks throughout the movie set to 4:20. Marijuana smokers familiar with the symbol picked up on it—most people, however, did not.

While some marijuana smokers are using 420 as a code that enables them to openly speak about marijuana in front of parents or teachers, adults are starting to catch on to the phenomenon. Adults are starting to realize the meaning of what has been, to some, a sacred symbol for nearly 30 years.

The next time you notice the 420 symbol, be aware of its meaning and what it represents. Remember that marijuana is an unsafe and unhealthy drug that has many risks and repercussions. Most teens are not using marijuana, despite what popular culture might imply. In fact, more than half of teens report never having tried marijuana. If you are interested in learning more about marijuana and in educating your peers about the risks of marijuana, talk to your school or community organizations about putting together an event on 4/20 to counter the pro-marijuana activities.

Information provided by ForReal.com (Formerly a US Department of Health website that has been offline since about 2004)

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