Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2004
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Waco-Tribune Herald
Author: John Allen, Tribune-Herald staff writer
Cited: High Times
Cited: Cannabis Consumers Campaign
Cited: NORML
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Talking to Rob Ondreas is enough to make a guy get the munchies.

Passionate about pot smoking, Ondreas' face lit up when he looked at
his cell phone and saw that it was exactly 4:20 p.m. The wanting look
that followed said he really had a hankering to light up. But, since
he was in a public establishment, he had to settle for a laugh at the
coincidental time of this interview and an assurance he'd make up for
it later.

It was, after all, 420 (that's four-twenty, in pot parlance) that he
was there to talk about.

Potheads everywhere will fire up at 4:20 p.m. today, if at all

April 20 has become somewhat of a pot smoker's holiday.

"I'll be smoking, you can count on that," he said, proudly. "I'll get
together with some of my crowd and we'll celebrate the day right,
probably with some good hydro (a marijuana connoisseur's choice) for a
special occasion."

Dating back to the early 1970s, the term "420" is a symbol of cannabis
culture. Several theories evolved over the years attributing the
origin of 420 to, among other things, police code for smoking pot and
the number of chemicals in marijuana. Turns out neither of those was
correct, but Steven Hager, former editor of High Times magazine,
traced it to 1971, when a group of about a dozen pot-smoking students
at San Rafael High School in California would gather after school at
4:20 p.m. to smoke pot at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur.

The group called itself the Waldos, Hager reported, and came to use
the phrase "420 Louis!" to salute each other in the hallways. Once it
caught on, 420 was used by the group as a code for pot around their
parents and teachers. "Do you have any 420?" or "Do I look 420?" was
common banter, said Waldo Steve, a member of the group, in the High
Times story .

The term spread beyond the Waldos, and eventually beyond San Rafael,
with the help of the Grateful Dead and its legion of pot-smoking fans.
Decades later, the term has encompassed April 20 as a day of unity
among marijuana users.

Ondreas, who is 30 and lives in Waco, said he's been smoking pot since
he was 18 and has known about the significance of 420 for several
years. Now he looks for it everywhere and even carries a disposable
camera with him to photograph the symbol whenever he sees it.

"I've got photos of me and my friends around a Highway 420 sign in
Canada, in front of buildings with large 420 street numbers and even
houses with 420 for an address," he said. "It's just a symbol of
something that's important to me, and I'm not shy about it."

The reason Ondreas isn't shy about his pot use is because he's
responsible, he said. He's worked for the same company for seven
years, pays taxes and contributes to society just like everybody else,
he said.

"Responsibility is the key," he said. "People can drink too much and
be more dangerous, but since alcohol is legal, they can get away with
it. Regardless of the substance or activity, people have to take
responsibility for their actions."

Ondreas said he would love to see the marijuana prohibition end but
doubts it will happen anytime soon because of the politics involved.
He's had brushes with the law but has spent no time in jail for his
hemp activities.

McLennan County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Randy Plemons, a former
DARE instructor, said legalized marijuana would make more people a
danger to themselves and others by putting a substance that causes
impairment in their system.

"There's also the addiction factor," he said. "It's hard to put down
and tends to be a gateway to harder drugs as people try to reach that
original high. I used to tell the kids to open a bag of potato chips
and only eat one and put down the rest. It's hard to resist and that's
the problem with marijuana."

The use of the term "420" has become more prevalent in pop culture in
recent years, said current High Times editor Richard Stratton, because
it denotes an esoteric knowledge about something previously reserved
for an underground scene.

"It's amazing how it's caught on," he said. "In the last five or six
years, it has really taken off. It's one of those hip terms people
like to use in certain crowds to try and impress someone."

There are a number of Web sites with 420 included in their their
addresses that are dedicated to the cannabis culture. Stratton said
many businesses catering to the pot-smoking crowd now use 420
somewhere in their names, too.

Mikki Norris, director of the Cannabis Consumers Campaign, started the
organization in 2002 so people could come out of hiding about their
marijuana use. A section on the organization's Web site has photos and
profiles posted by more than 160 people from across the country who
not only smoke marijuana but also advocate its legalization. For the
most part, those profiled profess to be well-educated professionals,
some with doctorates, and include several Christian ministers.

"420 is a cultural kind of national holiday to celebrate freedom,"
Norris said. "It's a day of tolerance from law enforcement and really
a massive civil disobedience to demonstrate for the end of cannabis

Acts of civil disobedience will take place in several states and towns
today, many on college campuses, in honor of 420. In Austin, the Texas
chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML)
will hold a "benefit" at The Vibe, a Sixth Street club known for such

Sarah Darrouzet, president of the Texas chapter and a graduate student
at the University of Texas at Austin, said she smokes pot several
times a week, and said 420 has become part of American culture.

"It's turned into something like afternoon tea," she said. "The
British drink tea; we smoke some pot. It's not that big of a deal to
most people, which is why the laws in Texas against it are so silly."

Sgt. Ryan Holt, spokesman for the Waco Police Department, was
unfamiliar with the term "420" as pot-smoking jargon and said the
event is not on the department's radar screen. Since Monday was the
anniversary of both the ending of the local Branch Davidian standoff
in 1993 and the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995, and
today is the fifth anniversary of the Columbine massacre, this is a
busy security week for the department, he said.

Darrouzet said some students from Baylor University had a NORML
chapter in recent years, but she is unsure if they are active anymore.

Jim Doak, director of Baylor's Department of Public Safety, said that
other than an isolated incident a few years back when someone wrote
420 on several cars with shoe polish, the day is a non-event around

"We're mindful of it, the officers are aware of it, but there are no
planned gatherings that we know of," he said.

Ondreas said he knew of about 25 to 30 people who would celebrate 420
today. An online poll taken at found that of 4,450
respondents, almost 70 percent were planning on being part of a "smoke
in" today.

So if people are scarce this afternoon around, well, you know what
time, draw your own conclusions. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake