Any member or ally of the cannabis community recognizes how sacred the number 420 is in cannabis culture. It started in 1971 as a time of day, 4:20 p.m., when five San Rafael, California, high school friends calling themselves The Waldos would meet up after sports practice to go treasure-hunting. They had a hand-drawn map that supposedly showed where an abandoned cannabis crop was in Point Reyes, supposedly drawn and provided by the crop’s owner. Each afternoon at 4:20, they went in search of the crop, toking all the way.

Although they never found their treasure, The Waldos did smoke plenty of weed, and the association between the number and the activity took hold within the group. Through other cultural vehicles, such as the band the Grateful Dead, the secret code spread and was perpetuated. Eventually, it was adapted from the clock to the calendar and made April 20, which is 4/20 in the United States’ date format, a de facto cannabis holiday. Every year, this holiday is celebrated worldwide with tremendous fanfare. (Some places keep it on the DL, but they still wile out.)

Odds are, you’ve heard of that 420, but there are many others. Some are one-dimensional, such as 420 being the country code to call the Czech Republic; others have more of a story to be told. Read on to see how many of the following 420s are new to you.

Shirt by Daniel Coleman on Printervall /Image CC BY-NC 4.0 DEED

Shirt by Daniel Coleman on Printervall /Image CC BY-NC 4.0 DEED

1. Sailboat Racing

In the sailing community, “the 420” is common shorthand for “International 420 Class Dinghy,” referring to a type of racing sailboat. It was designed by French engineer Christian Maury as the nautical equivalent of a tricycle, something that children can use to build foundational skills that will take them to the next level. Youth sailors learn core sailing skills on the 420, then advance to higher-performance boat classes.

Photo Credit: Bilby, CC BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Bilby, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Lest you think that this sailboat is secretly more of a sail-bong, know that the boat was named in 1959 France for its length in centimeters. The Waldos were likely in preschool.

2. Indian Penal Code

In India, the number 420 is associated with cheating and dishonesty. The stigma derives from Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 420, Cheating and Dishonestly Inducing Delivery of Property. If an individual deceives someone to obtain property or manipulate important documents, they can face imprisonment for up to seven years, in addition to a fine. Thus, tagging someone with “420” is equivalent to calling the person a cheater, sometimes in an informal sense when someone failed to deliver on a promise.

Image CC0 1.0 Via Creative Commons

Image CC0 1.0 Via Creative Commons

Interestingly, the IPC might soon be replaced with something not handed down by a colonial power. In August 2023, India’s Minister of Home Affairs in the Lok Sabha introduced Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023, to replace the IPC. The BNS Bill was withdrawn four months later and reintroduced as the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, after which it gained traction in the legislative and executive channels. Its passage will do away with the infamous Section 420, but it remains to be seen whether the cultural interpretation will be done away with too.

3. Angel Number

Numbers that appear to you repeatedly have the potential to be signs sent to you by deceased loved ones, spirit guides or a Higher Power of some kind. Known as “angel numbers,” these are actually message-carrying codes, each with a meaning found in various guides. Repetition is often needed to verify the transmission and receipt of the message – and to get your attention in the first place. One of these otherworldly messages is transmitted through the number 420.

Image by.deviantart.com/alphaoflove/gallery CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DEED

Image by.deviantart.com/alphaoflove/gallery CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DEED

Weed aside, let’s imagine what it might be like to receive a 420 message from someone or something dwelling on another plane. First, something wakes you up right at 4:20 a.m., and you have no idea what or why. Then, while on your way somewhere later, you see 420 in a phone number advertised on a billboard. When you arrive at your destination, a sign on the wall gives the maximum capacity for the room as 420 people. Later, when buying a snack, the total comes to $4.20. And so forth.

When that many coincidences happen in a short time with a given number, it’s worth looking into, and it’s easy to explore online. For instance, Astrology.com provides this summary: “Angel number 420 is a powerful message from the universe to focus on balance, harmony, personal growth, and positive intentions. It’s a sign to trust your intuition, connect with your spiritual self, and take responsibility for your actions.” (Click on that hyperlink for every possible interpretation of 420 from Astrology.com.) Accordingly, if you see 420 all day in random, non-cannabis-related places, take a minute to reflect on how that message might apply to you.

4. U.S. House Resolution (Congressional Act)

On Jan. 9, 2019, U.S. House Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced H.R.420 – Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. Between that date and Feb. 8, 2019, the bill was referred to four subcommittees. Since then, it has remained in the “Introduced” status … for five years … and counting.

Photo by Smoke Honest on Unsplash

Photo by Smoke Honest on Unsplash

Although currently comatose, H.R.420 is astonishingly ambitious. As its starting point, it directs the Department of Justice to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances. One could say that this alone leaves no mystery as to why the bill hasn’t cleared even one legislative threshold.

5. HTTP Status Code

In web development, HTTP status codes, such as 404 Not Found, are part of the HTTP response structure. They communicate the status of web requests between clients and servers, indicating whether or not a request has been successfully completed. One such code, created as a joke but highly functional, is 420 Enhance Your Calm (aka Method Failure, I’m a Teapot).

Image by Ged Carroll /CC BY 2.0 DEED

Image by Ged Carroll /CC BY 2.0 DEED

To be clear, the 420 code is not defined by any official registry, existing only as an unofficial extension on X (formerly Twitter), the Spring Framework and cPanel. When sent by X, the status code 420 Enhance Your Calm demonstrates that the client is being rate-limited for making too many requests. The intention is to ease traffic by restricting clients to a certain number of requests within a specific time. When sent by the Spring Framework, 420 Method Failure shows that – no surprise – a method has failed. In cPanel, when a user attempts to access a webpage marked “Teapot,” the status code 420 I’m a Teapot is received.

6. Head Magazine’s (Digital) Birthday

Last but not least, 420 symbolizes the digital reincarnation of the 1970s hardcopy magazine “Head” on 4/20/2020. This year, HeadMagazine.com turns 4 years old!

Charlotte Parker, an Orthodox Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors, got the idea for a magazine about marijuana while she was working at Penthouse Magazine. (That’s a lot to take in, in one sentence!) Read about it in her own words in “The True Story of How I Started Head Magazine: Part One.”

Charlotte Parker / Editor and Publisher of Head Magazine

Charlotte Parker / Editor and Publisher of Head Magazine

Join us in celebrating our (re)birthday by ordering a Head Magazine t-shirt from the homepage. You won’t believe how much work we put into recreating the original, wildly popular peach-colored tee from the ’70s. (No joke! Read the story under the Add to Cart option.) Then, submit a photo of you in your Head t-shirt to Mytee@HeadMagazine.com to be featured on our website with others who share your good taste.

Kathleen Hearons, Staff Writer, Head Magazine

Kathleen Hearons, Staff Writer, Head Magazine

From all of us at Head, happy 4/20!

And many happy returns to HeadMagazine.com!

Kathleen Hearons is a writer, editor, linguist and voice over actor from Los Angeles. She specializes in creative writing and research-intensive analysis and reporting.  

 

 

 

Sources and Suggested Reading

“302 is not murder, 420 is not cheating: How IPC Section numbers will change in proposed new Code.” The Indian Express. August 11, 2023. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-law/indian-penal-code-new-changes-sections-explained-8888125/.

“420.” Astrology.com. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.astrology.com/numerology/angel-numbers/420-meaning.

“420 loses its sting, murder moves up to 101.” The Times of India. Last updated August 12, 2023. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/420-loses-its-sting-murder-moves-up-to-101/articleshow/102663871.cms.

“420 Method Failure or Enhance your calm.” http.dev. Last updated June 2, 2022. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://http.dev/420.

“420: The International Dinghy.” Sea Bags. May 31, 2016. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://seabags.com/tell-tales-blog/blog-420-the-international-dinghy.html.

“Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.” Freelaw. February 7, 2024. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.freelaw.in/legalarticles/Bharatiya-Nyaya-Sanhita-2023.

C., Andrew. “420 Method Failure Response Status Code.” SEO Leaders. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.seoleaders.co.uk/420-method-failure-response-status-code/.

“Czech Republic Country Code +420.” CountryCode.org. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://countrycode.org/czechrepublic.

Hearons, Kat. “‘Head’ Magazine, Iconic in the ’70s, Comes Roaring Back as HeadMagazine.com.” khearons.com. January 22, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://khearons.com/2020/01/22/head-magazine-iconic-in-the-70s-comes-roaring-back-as-headmagazine-com/.

Holland, Brynn. “The Hazy History of ‘420.’” History.com. April 20, 2022. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.history.com/news/the-hazy-history-of-420.

“H.R.420 – Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.” 116th Congress (2019-2020). January 9, 2019. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/420.

“HTTP 420 error suddenly affecting all operations.” Salesforce. Last updated November 7, 2023. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://salesforce.stackexchange.com/questions/402536/http-420-error-suddenly-affecting-all-operations.

“Introduction to the 420.” 420 Sailing. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.420sailing.org/content/introduction-to-the-420.

“Just a few Reasons why the 420 Leads as the Boat of Choice for Youth Sailors.” 420 Sailing. April 10, 2015. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.420sailing.org/default/news/new/text/just-a-few-reasons-why-the-420-leads-as-the-boat-of-choice-for-youth-sailors.

Mohanty, Chikirsha. “Punishment for Cheating & dishonestly [sic].” LawRato. April 1, 2024. Accessed April 13, 2024. Translated from Hindi into English by Google. https://lawrato-com.translate.goog/indian-kanoon/ipc/section-420?_x_tr_sl=hi&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc.

Palii, Ivan. “What Is 420 Error: Meaning and How to Fix Issue.” Sitechecker. July 10, 2023. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://sitechecker.pro/what-is-420-status-code/.

Parker, Charlotte. “The True Story of How I Started Head Magazine: Part One.” Head Magazine. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://headmagazine.com/the-true-story-of-how-i-started-head-magazine-part-one/.

Rupa, K.N. “Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code: A Comprehensive Guide.” ezyLegal. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.ezylegal.in/blogs/section-420-of-the-indian-penal-code.

Vishwanath, Apurva, and Harikishan Sharma. “Revamp of criminal laws: Centre brings Bills to replace IPC, CrPC, Evidence Act.” The Indian Express. Last updated August 12, 2023. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/amit-shah-bills-reforming-indias-criminal-justice-system-8887532/.

“What do Indians mean when they refer to “420”?.” Quora. Accessed April 13, 2024. https://www.quora.com/What-do-Indians-mean-when-they-refer-to-420.