Monday, April 15, 2013

Popular Myths Surround the Origins of "420 / 4:20 / 4/20"

I hear a lot of questions and myths around this time every year regarding the origins of "420".  While this isn't exactly a legal question, it is a question that "OC's Premier Marijuana Defense Attorney" should be able to answer, so I did the research.  

Whether expressed as a 3-digit number ("420"), a time ("4:20"), or a date (4/20), the number has become synonymous with marijuana.  It is often used to identify head shops and marijuana dispensaries.  Affixing one of these stickers to your rear bumper can also be a handy way to attract attention from police.  

As the number gains popular recognition as a "code" for marijuana, myths regarding its origins have also spread like weeds (bad pun intended).  I've taken a moment here to dispel a few of the most common and persistent 420 origin myths.

-420 is the Penal Code designation (or police radio code) for "smoking in progress":  Not even close.  Section 420 of the California Penal Code actually prohibits anyone from "preventing or obstructing entry upon or passage over public lands".  Most marijuana crimes are defined by sections 11357, et seq. of the Health & Safety Code.  According to my research, there aren't any states that use section 420 of their penal codes for anything remotely related to marijuana.

-4/20 is Hitler's Birthday: True, but completely unrelated to the date's popularity among hippies and stoners.

-4/20 is the anniversary of the Columbine shootings: Again, true.  And again, completely unrelated to the date's significance.  April 20 was a stoner holiday well before two latch-key kids went tragically mad and murdered their classmates.

According to Steven Hager, editor of High Times Magazine and consummate authority on marijuana culture, the code actually began with a small group of teenagers from San Rafael High School in the city of San Rafael, California.  According to Mr. Hager's legend, the friends referred to themselves as "The Waldos" because they were known to hang out at a particular wall on campus.  One day in the Fall of 1971, the Waldos devised a plan to scour the Point Reyes forest for an abandoned marijuana crop that they had heard about.  They would meet at 4:20 pm near a campus statue of Louis Pasteur to begin the hunt.  The time was chosen because all of the Waldos were athletes.  They would meet after practice, but early enough to ensure ample daylight for the search.  The plan even had a secret code name: "4:20 Louis".  Somehow, this code was eventually shortened to simply "4:20" or "420".  The Waldos never found the crop, but they did contribute to marijuana culture in way that none of them could have imagined.

One of the remaining Waldos, "Steve", explained the early use of their code to the Huffington Post"I could say to one of my friends, I'd go, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, 'Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?' Or, 'Do you have any?' Or, 'Are you stoned right now?' It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it.  Our teachers didn't know what we were talking about. Our parents didn't know what we were talking about."

In the early '70s, the Grateful Dead were spending more of their time in the Marin hills and away from the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco.  By chance, several of the Waldos developed close personal and business relationships with the band.  The high school friends hung out backstage and attended rehearsals with Jerry, Phil, Pigpen, Mickey and Bob.  Once the code caught on among deadheads, it quickly spread around the world.  

By the early '90s, High Times used the number regularly in their publications.  It soon gained worldwide recognition within the festival scene and around college campuses.  Some time in the mid '90s, park rangers noticed that unusually large and exuberant groups of campers were filling campgrounds during the weekend of April 20.  Rangers wrongly assumed that the crowds were somehow related to early Earth Day celebrations.

Today, the number is as recognizable as the Coca Cola logo.  It is no longer an effective code word for high school students.  Cops have figured it out.  Even your parents know what it means.  Maybe it's "high" time for some new lingo.  Any suggestions?

Please be safe this weekend.  Before you celebrate, designate.  Most importantly, though, hold onto my number.  (714) 449-3335.  Our office has an excellent record in defending against all types of drug charges.  If you or a loved one is accused of a crime involving drugs, you need a lawyer with expertise in drug defense.  I understand the issues that typically arise in drug cases and how to use those issues to your advantage.  We offer free consultations and affordable payment plans.  

Thanks for reading.

Santa Ana Marijuana Lawyer

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CA Court Rules: U Can't Touch This [Cell Phone While Driving]

An appellate court in Fresno recently took up the question of what it means to "use" a cell phone while driving.

Section 23123 of the California Vehicle Code reads as follows:

A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving. (Section 23123.5 specifically addresses texting while driving).

The facts of the case were undisputed: Steven Spriggs, the appellant, had been cited for using his phone's map application while driving.  In January of 2012, Mr. Spriggs was stuck in a traffic jam caused by road construction.  He reached for his iPhone and pulled up the map application to check traffic on alternative routes.  A highway patrolman spotted Mr. Spriggs holding the phone and glancing at the device's screen, and  Mr. Spriggs was cited for violating VC 23123 -- "using" a wireless telephone while driving.

Mr. Spriggs appealed his traffic citation on the grounds that he was not "using" a phone, he was simply looking at a map.  The legislature, he argued, intended to prohibit electronic communication, not map glancing.  It would be more distracting, but perfectly legal, to unfold a Thomas Guide while driving.  Why should a small, digital map be treated differently than a large, paper map?  The court was unmoved.

Citing the legislative history of the statute, the court found that "the primary evil sought to be avoided was the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone.  That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails...If the Legislature had intended to limit the application of the statute to 'conversing' or 'listening and talking', as appellant maintains, it could have done so."

Did you hear that?  The court found that you may be cited for using your phone as a clock while driving.  Even glancing at the time on your phone is now punishable by a $159 ticket (a $25 fine + court costs, mandatory state penalty assessments, etc. = $159+).

On the bright side, the state should be closing its massive budget deficit any day now...