420 in Popular Culture

By David Jenison

The not-so-secret code has repeatedly snuck into pop culture, presumably meant as an “Easter Egg” for insiders to discover. For example, one of the earliest pop-culture nods appeared in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which famously cast Sean Penn as a high school stoner. In the film, a pissed-off football player (portrayed by a young Forest Whitaker) demolished the opposing team, resulting in a final score of 42 to 0. Later, Oscar-nominated films like Pulp Fiction and Lost in Translation famously set on-screen clocks to 4:20pm. In the television series Mad Men, the agency had a major meeting with American Airlines in a plot line that stretched across several episodes. When the big day came, the camera zoomed in on a date book, and the presentation took place on April 20. Surely not a coincidence for a series that showed characters smoking cannabis in the Village a few episodes later. Even this week's season finale of 24: Legacy counted down its final seconds with the main character going into a room numbered 420. The number even pops into politics. In 2003, a California Senate Bill addressed the regulation of medical cannabis, and Governor Gray Davis signed the bill just days after losing a recall election. Brilliantly, an unknown clerk assigned the bill the following number: SB 420.

Richard Nixon's Drug War

The Controlled Substances Act

The Boggs Act & Mandatory Minimums

Where's Waldo?

Debunked 420 Myths

Myth Busting: 420 Edition

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

Was Harry Anslinger a Racist?

The Anslinger Gore Files

Harry Anslinger: The Godfather of Cannabis Prohibition

The Genesis of Cannabis

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

The Origin of "Marijuana"

The French Army Gets High in Egypt

The Hashish Eaters Club