EDITOR: | August 21st, 2018

4:20, 420 or 4/20 survived prohibition — it will survive legalization.

| August 21, 2018 | No Comments

If the terms of the Cannabis Act were to be followed, it would be illegal for anyone to attach 4:20 in relation to cannabis, as it advocates the time of day when cannabis can/should be consumed.

The Cannabis Act lays out strict rules regarding marketing, especially to minors. Strictly speaking 4:20 should be banned from the language of licensed producers and distributors as it promotes cannabis consumption.

The Cannabis Act goes further by imposing restrictions on information-type promotion – in other words, factual, accurate information about cannabis products (ingredients, THC and CBD levels, etc.). Information that allows consumers to tell the difference between brands is permitted. In all cases, these types of promotion are allowed where they could not be seen by youth. The Cannabis Act imposes restrictions on several types of promotional activities, such as:

  • Promotion considered appealing to youth—this one is obvious as “keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth” has been a platform theme for the government since it began campaigning for the legalization of cannabis;
  • Promotion that includes false, misleading, or deceptive information—this is already in place under the current ACMPR regime as it is not permitted to claim efficacy or pharmaceutical properties for cannabis, among others;
  • Promotion through sponsorship, testimonials, or endorsements—this is an add-on from the ACMPR; and
  • Promotion using the depictions of persons, celebrities, characters, or animals—this too is an add-on from the ACMPR:  I guess Snoop Dogg fits under two of these categories.

But what about 4:20?

4:20 is so deeply entrenched in the Cannabis culture that it is inconceivable that government regulations can eliminate it.

4204:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a code-term in cannabis culture that refers to the consumption of cannabis, especially smoking cannabis around the time 4:20 p.m. (or 16:20 in 24-hour notation) and smoking cannabis in celebration on the date April 20 (which is 4/20 in U.S. form).

The origin of the term dates back to prohibition and draws on the inventive approach of teenagers. In 1971, five high school students in San Rafael, California, calling themselves the Waldos because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”, used the term in connection with a 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop based on a treasure map made by an illegal grower. The Waldos designated the statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. After several failed attempts to find the crop, the group eventually shortened their phrase to simply “4:20” for consuming cannabis.

Presumably, Steven Hager of High Times was responsible for taking the story about the Waldos to “mind-boggling, cult-like extremes” and “suppressing” all other stories about the origin of the term. Hager wrote “Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?”, in which he attributed the early spread of the phrase to Grateful Dead followers – after one of the Waldos became a roadie for the band’s bassist– and called for 4:20 p.m. to be the socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis.

We should expect 4:20 to persist as a symbol of the cannabis culture under the Cannabis Act. After all it has enjoyed more than 40 years of tenure under prohibition.

Dr. Luc Duchesne


Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>

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