4/20 is the only holiday I enjoy. Christmas hits me right in the swing of seasonal depression. Halloween was fun when I was younger, but now that I can wear slutty costumes and worship the dead in the comfort of my own home, it seems silly to limit myself to one day a year. 4’th of July is a farce. Easter can’t decide whether it’s a Christian celebration of Jesus becoming a zombie or a pagan celebration of orgasms and…rabbits? Maybe I’m an old washed-up Scrooge who needs to smoke less and breathe more fresh air, but 4/20 is my favorite day of the year.
When I was growing up, my parents lumped all drugs into the same extremely forbidden category and didn’t offer many specifics on what the drugs were, what they did, how they differentiated from one another, or anything really other than “Listen here you short-haired bastard, don’t you even glance at a reefer cigarette or before you know it you’ll be living on skid row, schizophrenic from masturbation and further away from the kingdom of heaven than people are able to recover from.”
Reporting live from the fires of hell.
Writers exaggerate for a living so it should come as no surprise that the above quote was, alas, a dramatic interpretation of a common denominator between myself and anyone else who grew up without receiving proper harm reduction education or so much as a fucking flow chart explaining the wonderful wide world of substance abuse. This might explain why I tried almost every drug under the sun before my 21st birthday, but that’s a story for another time. My parents were both white Christian Conservatives so any mention of 4/20 in the house was once a year when my Dad would flick on the news, only to realize it was 4/20 and spend the next hour lecturing us about “decisions.” My father, bless him, is finally starting to come around a bit with the whole “weed thing” but back then he was convinced you’d end up unemployed and stupid at best if you smoked pot and at worst you’d end up shooting heroin in the voting booth right before checking the little box that said “Al Gore.” Up until high school, that’s the only exposure I had to 4/20 as we were somewhat wealthy when I was too young to give a shit and I went to a private school where my parents needn’t worry about their child being exposed to such degenerate talk in their absence.
Fast forward to the 2008 housing market crash, hooray! We lost all our money like everyone else and had to sell our fancy shmancy house in the Bay Area. In retrospect, that was actually the best thing my parents ever did for me because they moved us to Northern California where cannabis, dare I say, grows on fucking trees even outside of the Emerald Triangle. I was still a certified, bible-thumping dork for many years after that and I didn’t actually smoke for the first time until I was 16 or 17, which made me a late bloomer compared to a lot of people I grew up with because I spent a lot of my formative years growing up around the children of early cannabis growers.
My first time smoking was out of an apple and I got so unbelievably ripped that the ten-minute drive back home felt like it took several hours. When I started consuming cannabis, I became a daily user almost immediately but I can recall my first 4/20 as a cannabis user was spent without consuming any cannabis at all because I was stuck at home that day under my parents’ watch. Still, I celebrated in my room all by myself with nothing more than an ill-fitting Rastafarian belt and a feeling of utter glee deep in my throat. There was a silent but palpable inner wolf howling in my lungs and brain because I had something. I had a newfound relationship with a plant that gave me the ability to sit through a lunch period without having a panic attack. I had something to look forward to with my newfound friends in the cannabis community, all of whom were always down to share a bowl of whatever their parents were growing and to this day I know deep in my heart that I was extremely fortunate to be smoking some of the finest cannabis the world has ever seen right from the jump. The Chemdawg batches remain to this day, the stuff of absolute legend.
Around 2014 I moved down to Isla Vista just north of Santa Barbara to attend community college where I worked for just about the most dysfunctional Jamba Juice in fiscal history and survived on a diet of cigarettes, smoothies and cocaine until hightailing it back north to Humboldt nine months later in search of good weed and actual food. I did get to experience my first 4/20 outside of my parents’ house down there, which I distinctly remember because I got off work at exactly 4:16 and I worked about a mile’s walk into UCSB’s campus which was frankly, overflowing with law enforcement. I sprinted at top speed from work down to the beach in frantic pursuit of a secret place to sesh before the clock struck 4:20. It was all of a sudden very important to me that I participate at exactly that time in exactly that fashion. At 4:19 I ducked into a bush where I still had a nice little view of the beach. I pulled out my resin-clogged Sherlock pipe, loaded it with some premium Bubba Kush and exhaled right as the time changed.
And the tree was happy.
I had to jump on my skateboard and dip home immediately after that before some hotshot bicycle cop caught a whiff of the loud and gave me the world’s most annoying possession ticket. I had a big ass smile on my face all the way back to my apartment. I was a confused and troubled young man alone in the world for the first time and getting my ass beat to boot, but my connection with the cannabis plant was growing stronger. I was unwittingly creating my own little tradition of intentionally taking time, however arbitrary or brief it may be, to celebrate that I can now indulge in cannabis use with less fear of judgment or repercussions than the year prior. I always make it a point to take a hit at 4:20 p.m. on April 20’th, no matter where I happen to find myself.
My next several 4/20’s were spent deep in Northern California weed country. I never really did the classic 4/20 things. I never went to Hippie Hill, hell I hardly ever left the hill. I never went to many events other than local ones and I spent every holiday smoking as much weed as possible, as far away from humans as possible. If I was lucky, I’d spend 4/20 up close and personal with cannabis plants. This time is overwhelmingly blurry for me so we’re going to skip ahead to California legalization but for all intents and purposes, my respective holidays were spent in the middle of nowhere, smoking all day long from sunup to sundown as the good Lord intended. Every year that passed, my appreciation for and knowledge of the plant grew deeper.
“Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown..”
Ever since Prop 64 passed 4/20 has gotten weirder and weirder to me, especially with more states opening up recreational markets. It’s a land grab in New York and a gluttonous excuse for California operators to offload all of last year’s product but the culture has still proven to show out in incredibly prolific numbers for everyone’s favorite day. If you ignore all the fuckery, we can celebrate however the hell we want now for the most part, though there are of course many places in the U.S. where doing exactly that will still land you in a jail cell. My mom is moving to Idaho and it breaks my heart that I genuinely cannot go visit her without risking legal repercussions, to put it mildly. The work’s not done yet, but ever since legalization, we’ve managed to cover more and more ground every year. That doesn’t come without its fair share of con men, sideshow circus shit (otherwise known as PR) and/or a million and a half other ugly side effects of doing legal business in America but the point is, the hare is asleep and we the tortoise are gaining ground on that jumped-up little speed freak.
I think it’s important that we remember a few things:
- 4/20 isn’t just about doing dumb stoner shit, as much as I encourage everybody to always participate in dumb stoner shit. To me, it’s about celebrating your individual relationship with the plant, whatever that looks like.
- The work is not anywhere near done and without being too much of a drag, we still need to take a moment and remember that people are still in prison, weed is still federally illegal in America and the mission is not finished until everyone in the world can choose to celebrate with us.
- There are 364 other days in the year for everyone to be snobby weed nerds and heady gatekeepers. Today is about including everyone regardless of who they are, or how often they consume. Pass a joint to your fellow man, full stop.
I think I’ll go enjoy my holiday now. This year I’m celebrating by eating some homemade chocolate chip cookie edibles, taking the day off of anything resembling work and hanging out in the yard with my son while we get this year’s garden ready. It feels like we’re in a good place as a community this year for the first time in a long time. I have a good feeling in my heart and in my lungs and I hope my plants can feel that energy this year too. As I look back on all the 4/20’s of my life I cannot help but feel gratitude, for once we were forced to smoke boof under cover of darkness but now we take giant hash rips in the sunshine. Happy holidays, you bastards.