The day is upon us; the hour draws near. Today is the 20th of April, 2020. Today, stoners the world over will gather as best they can, spark up some bud, and celebrate one of the more enduring drug traditions we’ve got. The coronavirus pandemic won’t stop people from Doing Weed, though it will probably stop them from gathering in person; even so, virtual weed-a-thons are happening across the country because nothing can kill these particular vibes. (If you’re curious, Rolling Stone has published a pretty good list.) 4/20 is the closest thing to a religious holiday there is for the stoners, tipplers, and one-toke-every-year-or-so people we love.
The story behind how the number came to mean marijuana is a fascinating one, involving ’70s haircuts, high school hijinks, and The Dead. Author Ryan Grim laid it all out in Huffpost a decade ago, and here is how it goes. One fall day, a group of five high schoolers in San Rafael, California, called the Waldos — so named because they hung out by a wall — heard that a Coast Guard member couldn’t tend his plot of bud, so they went to find it. Because they were athletes, they met after practice to start the hunt — 4:20PM. The code has endured all these decades because of aging hippies, the magazine High Times, and the brilliant obliqueness of the number itself. 420! It could mean anything!
Obviously, stoners walk among us here at The Verge. There is a long literary tradition of drug use, and writers aren’t immune to the romance of opening the doors of perception or traveling through the looking glass — things of that nature. They mostly declined to reveal themselves, which I get; people, including parents and possibly the authorities, read the blogs we publish. A couple of brave souls, however, did indulge my request.
A designer messaged me to say that while he’s been displaced by the pandemic to his sister-in-law’s place, he and his partner have been making do with that old standby: smoking weed out of homemade coke can pipes. They got what’s called “a pinchy,” which he says is a local measurement approximately equal to a quarter O of reggie.
My editor, a proud Californian, hit me with this: “I am going to eat a chocolate ball with 5mg of THC and then get really into watering all my flowers on Animal Crossing.” Hell yeah.
One Verge reporter quarantined with his in-laws reports that his plans for today aren’t so different than they are any other day. He’s “sneaking hits off the vape pen in the precious seconds that exist right after I put my kids to bed but before I go downstairs to watch whatever bullshit TV my in-laws force me to watch.” He did, however, recently celebrate a birthday, and his father — who deals in another state — mailed him a fresh eighth. “I may take this opportunity to up my game if I can,” he reports.
Another designer I spoke with told me something similar: he and his roommate are mostly planning to do what they do every day, which is to smoke (he out of a bong, them out of a pipe) and hang out. They will, however, have some blunts tonight and watch a stoner film. “I’m celebrating by giving myself license to do absolutely fucking nothing after 6pm, getting cozy af, and ordering Wendy’s on Doordash,” the designer reports. He also dropped some knowledge on me. “The high version of you is like a child that you raise, or like the secondary save on a RPG,” he says. “That one’s for free.”
I’m mostly glad that people can still find reasons to come together and celebrate something, even if that something is just getting high. The ritual is the point — the going out of your way to make a specific day and time special. I don’t really have anything out of the ordinary planned for today, either. I’m going to play video games with my friends and smoke virtually with some of them. I might order a pizza. But what’s great about today isn’t the smoking. 4/20 is a reminder that any day can mean something if you really want it to.
And no, I’m not high.