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Thursday, August 3, 2006 - Page updated at 09:38 AM


What's the origin of "420" pot code?

Seattle Times staff reporter

Online and on the street, marijuana goes by a number of names. While terms like "pot," "dope" and "bud" may sound familiar, none has as much mystery as "420."

Used for years as a code for pot smokers looking to communicate around the watchful eyes of parents, police and other authorities, the numerical marijuana reference has long had online forums buzzing about its origin.

Caught up in the tangle of 420-related myths:

• It's the California penal-code number for marijuana possession.

• It's the number of chemical compounds in marijuana.

• Seattle's own rocker Jimi Hendrix (who was famously photographed smoking marijuana a number of times) died on April 20 (4/20).

In reality:

• California penal code 420 regulates the obstruction of access to public land. The state's Senate Bill 420, however, did establish the regulated use of medical marijuana.

• A number of medical studies have put the compound count at 315, according to High Times, a marijuana-culture magazine.

• Hendrix died Sept. 18, 1970.

Actually, according to High Times, 420 is a term coined in the early 1970s and is a reference to 4:20 p.m., a time when a group of high-school students at San Rafael High School in Marin County, Calif., would meet to smoke pot after school.

Nathan Hurst: 206-464-2112 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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