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420: A brief but thorough explanation

If Carleton is anything, it’s not vocal. Not once have students ever mentioned or gotten excited about a topic, event or administrative decision. In fact, most Carls are often completely silent for most of the day, worrying that speaking wouldn’t be post-ironic enough.

And one such thing that has fallen under the radar the past few weeks has been Carleton’s recognition of and participation in the infamous 420 phenomenon.

In this article I aim to explain for those unaware (be it parents, students, whomever) what 420 is and how it came to be.

The term “420” is a slang term used to refer broadly to cannabis subculture. The term is sometimes alternatively stylized as “4/20” or “4:20.”

When students refer to a “420 day,” they’re usually referring to April 20, the annual day of “marijuana celebration,” as it were, when people (definitely not Carleton students) typically partake in the consumption of cannabis—or, if nothing else, wear related clothing or post the number on their stories.

However, since the number also refers to a time of day (i.e. 4:20 a.m. or 4:20 p.m.), the event can also be observed daily.

The 420 tradition actually began in 1971 when high school students from San Rafael, California convened several times at 4:20 p.m. to, ultimately unsuccessfully, locate an abandoned cannabis plant.

While no Carleton students celebrated the holiday this year, President Steven Poskanzer did send out an all-campus email with the subject line “Happy 420 to Tokefield, MN.” 

I hope this article provided at least a bit of clarity and a little glimpse into student life here at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

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