Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jun 2001
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2001sPeoria Journal Star


Mysterious Mower Carves Out Slang Term For Marijuana

Did someone use a patch of grass to say something about an illegal weed?

That's one theory making the rounds after an unknown man mowed the number 
"420" in 20-foot-long digits onto a pair of Peoria hillsides flanking the 
McClugage Bridge and its Adams Street ramps this week.

That number has been used as underground slang in reference to marijuana. 
State highway department officials are irked by the possibly symbolic 
vandalism in the shadow of the McClugage, one of Peoria's most-used gateways.

"That's interesting," Illinois Department of Transportation engineer George 
Ryan said Thursday after being told of the drug-related meaning.

"That's strange that somebody would put that sort of symbolism on our 
right-of-way, if that's what it's for," Ryan said. "I don't think there's 
any marijuana growing out there."

"That's vandalism," Ryan said. "We're not real crazy about people putting 
up any type of signs or cuttings like that on our right-of-way. We'd just 
as soon they didn't. They shouldn't do things like that."

The numbers are clearly visible to nearby traffic.

Though the mower's identity is unknown, a Washington woman saw the numbers 
being cut Tuesday.

"I saw a man wearing shorts with a lawnmower, and he was mowing the hill on 
the (Peoria) side of the bridge. The only thing I saw at the time was he 
was mowing a big '4,' " the woman said. "I was kind of curious as to what 
he was doing. I thought it was strange."

The Web site for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws 
labeled "420" as "synonymous in the popular culture with the celebration of 
personal freedom by marijuana smokers."

Another site called it "an international code word for smoking marijuana . 
. . (used by a) vast underground (that) celebrates that term." And at least 
a dozen other marijuana-related sites either incorporated "420" in their 
names or prominently referred to "420."

Ryan said the vandalism won't be gone anytime soon.

"We wanted to cut (the grass) short enough to eliminate it. But it's so 
short, there's no way we can cut it short enough to do that."

Reporter Andy Kravetz contributed to this story.
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