By Cyrus McNally
Source: Daily Bruin
Jah man. Gather round, for I am about to unveil to you the true origins of a much misunderstood, misrepresented and misinterpreted expression. But this reminds me of a point I wanted to make...
One theory why cannabis is still illegal: If marijuana was legal, demand for the crop might skyrocket. This would in turn necessitate the planting and cultivating of many more plants, which would help reduce green-house gasses in the atmosphere by over 15 percent. Normally this would be beneficial, as it would reduce that dreaded greenhouse effect they keep scaring us about.
But you see, the people in power don't want to reduce the greenhouse effect, and unbeknownst to the breadth of the world's population, our earth is slowly undergoing a massive terraforming project coordinated by our alien masters.
But I digress.
How did the combination of inhaling a nasty smelling plant and listening to music come about? First off, with the enhancement of the senses comes the enhancement of music. The nuances of melody and complexity in rhythmic patterns enrapture the mind of the demented hophead. Everything expands in infinite grandeur as if propelled by some gigantic field of anti-gravity. Permanent volume.
And, yet again, I digress.
This column is really about the origins of the expression "420," as many people have come to associate this number with cannabis, or the marijuana plant, for some reason or another.
A particular rumor has it that "420" refers to the number of different chemicals found in marijuana.
Another rumor claims that the police use "420" as the code for reporting a "pot-smoking in progress" (police departments deny the existence of any such code).
In actuality, the term "420" was originated by a group of brothers who would meet up every day after high school in the parking lot to spark up at 4:20 p.m. Thanks to these guys, the simple and easy-to-remember phrase became quite popular among certain populations, musicians included, signifying a specially designated time significant to all potheads.
However, the term was really not all that popular until it somehow spilled over into the Grateful Dead community, who passed out flyers at Oakland, Calif., shows in 1990 announcing a "4:20 on 4/20 gathering."
The rest is history.
Well, actually, let's take history back a little farther...
2737 B.C.: Cannabis is referred to as a "superior" herb in the world's first medical text, or pharmacopoeia, in Southeast Asia.
1845 A.D.: Psychologist and inventor of modern psychopharmacology, Jacques-Joseph Moreau de Tours publishes the first report of the possible physical and mental benefits of cannabis. Only 25 years later, cannabis is listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a medicine.
1964 A.D.: THC, tetrahydracannabinol, is first isolated in the laboratory.
1989 A.D.: Price-per-ounce of cannabis is worth more than gold. Worldwide prohibition attracts organized crime to take over the cannabis market and net large profits.
1997 A.D.: An eight-year study at the UCLA School of Medicine concludes that long-term smokers of cannabis do not experience a greater annual decline in lung function than non-smokers. Also in 1997, it is reported that America's largest cash crop, outranking corn, wheat and all other grains combined, is cannabis.
More recent research on cannabinoid receptors in the brain, known as CB1 (cannabinoid 1) receptors, has concluded that they might regulate perception (hearing, color vision, taste), cognition (sleep, long- and short-term memory) and motor skills (movement, coordination, posture and muscle tone), helping to establish the link between biology and behavior of the cannabis inhaler.
CB1 receptors have been shown to ultimately inhibit adrenaline, explaining the large amount of peace and laziness exhibited in your average cannabis inhaler.
So how was cannabis first connected to music? One of the more striking effects noticed in the state of consciousness brought on by cannabis use is an acutely augmented appreciation of music. The effect does not seem to fade with the habitual use of cannabis. This perception of enhancement is curiously not limited to certain types of music, although many persons originally interested only in pop music, for example, have been known to suddenly find during a marijuana session that more "serious" music is entertaining in a way both unexpected and profound.
While the biological actions of THC and other related cannabinoids are not fully understood, it is the derangement of reality in a pleasant matter that beckons its users. This derangement has obviously been used to some advantage, as musicians (as well as other artists) have testified not only to enhanced appreciation of music and art in general through use of cannabis, but some have also contended that these altered states of consciousness are useful and valuable in augmenting their creativity – although research verifying such claims is hard to accomplish in any meaningful or relative way.
It wasn't really until the 1930s that cannabis became associated with music – at the time, it was jazz music. It can't be denied that the long, wild-winded solos of saxophone and trumpet virtuosos John Coltrane and Miles Davis helped foster a long movement of improvisation which would eventually carry itself over to such diverse genres as rock, bluegrass and the avant garde.
Total disinhibition of form in music took precedence for several decades, where psychedelic and progressive rock music reigned on the airwaves during the 1960s and '70s. Exploratory arrangements and free-form song structure opened up a new fanfare of musical possibilities worldwide.
Freed from the restraint of a more conservative and shunning industry, artists were now allowed to express themselves as a changing culture; abandoning the old-guard standards of snappy, happy, three-minute pop songs for anthemic, aural aggrandizement and virtuosity. Classic rock groups like Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead and Yes all offered their listeners multiple layers of instruments (the most important of which is the synthesizer), jamming out songs for 20 minutes or more at a time, keeping their respective (and intoxicated) audiences bombarded with sensory overload. The Dead once played its magnum opus, "Dark Star" for 60 minutes at an early '70s concert.
In this day and age, electronic music seems to have taken over for the aforementioned exploratory rock bands, trading in drums for blaring beats, swirls of synthesizer and deep artificial bass. Although the Grateful Dead was over by the mid-'90s (when lead guitarist Jerry Garcia died), it was replaced by the more modern Phish.
And, well, now that Phish has decided to take at least a year off from touring, electronic music seems to be filling in, offering meshes of novel sonic textures that are sure to offer a deregulation of perception if absorbed under the right circumstances.
It is safe to say that without the presence of a cannabinoid influence, music would not be what it is today. The social and cognitive disinhibition caused by cannabis smoking has allowed countless artists to achieve some of their finer moments, and it almost serves as a release mechanism for creativity. That is, only if the artists suspect that they are at all creative in the first place.
But I digress...
Music: Writer explains connection between pot, perception, roots of ‘420’
McNally is a fourth-year neuroscience student who knows not which way the wind blows.
Source: Source: Daily Bruin (CA)
Author: Cyrus McNally
Published: April 18, 2001
Copyright: 2001 ASUCLA Student Media