You might want to look more closely into the eyes of your teenager today. The redness and sensitivity to light may be more than just spring allergies.
I learned over the weekend from a teen-in-the-know that today is 420 ("four-twenty" in teen parlance), the day teens across the country show up at school stoned. Not all teens, mind you. Just the ones who probably get stoned in the morning in the first place. Still, the parents I was with when we learned of this "tradition," (and who incidentally did their fair share of stupid things in high school,) were pretty surprised that : A) there was such a thing as 420 Day, and B) that none of us had heard about it before.
My curiousity peaked, I googled "420" and instantly came up with this Huffington Post piece saying that 420 actually takes pot smoking beyond high school kids, and puts it right into the mainstream - or at least the mainstream that still uses rolling papers, pipes and bongs. April 20 is "National Pot Smoking Day," according to the HuffPost. "A day where people across the world celebrate in the conspicuous consumption of the magical herb, marijuana. It's an unofficial counterculture holiday that is based on the simple concept of smoking some cannabis and being happy."
My teen informant, however, did not have a clue why 420 - and not 615 or more likely 711 -- a brightly lite place where many a stoner has snuffed their munchies with packages of Hostess SnoBalls and Funyons, washed down with a ginormous Slurpee.
However, leave it to the SFChronicle to trace the legend to a group of stoners at San Rafael High School. According to High Times editor Steven Hager, back in 1971 there was "a group of about a dozen pot-smoking wiseacres who called themselves the Waldos. The term 420 was shorthand for the time of day the group would meet, at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur, to smoke pot. The term took root, and flourished, and spread beyond San Rafael with the assistance of the Grateful Dead and their dedicated cohort of pot-smoking fans."
Fast forward 38 years, and an estimated 40-percent of Americans have smoked pot according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, including our current President as well as his two predecessors. Medical marijuana can currently be prescribed to ease the pain and symptoms of many tortuous ailments. And there's actually serious talk in political circles about limited legalization or limiting prosecution. In fact, today's headline in the NYTimes says that "For Marijuana Advocates, Not-So-Secret Holiday Hints at Change."
But although I'm perfectly willing to give 23-year old Michael Phelps the benefit of the doubt after getting caught on a camera phone toking up at a college frat party during his off-season, and wouldn't hesitate to to ask for a pot prescription were I in pain from cancer treatments --- I'm not nearly so cool when it comes high school kids showing up at school stoned - on April 20th or any other day.
It's the great parenting paradox of the baby boomer and beyond generations -- do as I say and not as I did, or in some cases, still do.
Why do you think they call it dope? Remember?