Stoner Philosophy: The 420 Code


Our Marijuana Stock Photo page opens with a quote: “Share your trees freely.” The curious web surfer might have clicked on the quote to find themselves reading a parable of a stoner who teaches of the virtue of indiscriminately sharing your cannabis with those who wish to partake. The parable is one of the “20 Rules of Thumb” found in the mildly obscure collection of stoner Philosophy known as “The 420 Code”.

What is the 420 Code

To my knowledge, The 420 Code first popped up a few years ago on a cannabis social networking outlet: the r/trees subreddit. I think the intention was to make just one post but popular demand rose which inspired the mysterious scribe 5moker to write the full 20 rules of thumb as well as some more recent writings like the tale of Mary Jane.

It’s a marvelous piece of art. It’s one of the few pieces of stoner philosophy that takes itself just seriously enough to be thought-provoking without trying to tackle something metaphysical. Many attempts at crafting a philosophy around marijuana end up either some offshoot of Rastafarian or totally incomprehensible. We can all relate to having that friend who believes Marijuana can solve all of the world’s problems. At the very least the 420 Code doesn’t make me cringe like that.

Every parable shares the story of a Jesus like Stoner who finds himself sharing bits of cannabis culture wisdom among the masses. Often this stoner wisdom challenges the traditional weed norms. Take for example this excerpt from the 420 Code’s “11 Rule of Thumb“:

A friend said, “Do not smoke us out. For there is not enough for all of us, and when we are gone, there will be none for you.”

But the stoner smiled and began to divide the trees among the seven pipes.

Because he was giving them this charity, they listened to him speak. “You have heard it said, ‘Repay trees with trees,’ but this is not free, for even the potheads trade trees for trees, neither losing nor gaining a puff. Instead, share with anyone who wishes to partake, and do not concern yourself with your reward. For this is the 11th Rule of Thumb: Share your trees freely.”

A friend objected, “But people will take advantage of us.”

“Then let yourself be taken advantage of,” the stoner replied. “For you will not reform a person by debt, but by charity: those to whom you have given will see the light of your lighters and will turn to the 420 Code.”

The idea of sharing your pot generously might ring true for myself and other cannabis users, but it’s not a universal ethic. There’s plenty of smokers who prefer a more exclusive approach to their sharing. More common especially in prohibition states. Alternatively, random joints being handed to me is a normal part of my experience smoking in Colorado. When there is a surplus of product around, developing a universal sharing ethic could actually increase your overall cannabis intake. Also being more inclusive with my stash has made smoking just increasingly enjoyable. Social smoking is great and it’s better when everyone around is involved.

There’s a lot of great stylistic choices here as well. Using a messiah-like stoner as the leading narrative focus plays on the #deep/#woke stoners take themselves too seriously. It also pays homage to the cultural trope of the wise and more experienced stoner. That big brother who smokes you out the first time or that older dealer friend who teaches you about passing the bowl to the left and general stoner etiquette.

Ultimately to me, The 420 Code is just a charming piece of literature with a nice underlying message. A message that says: enjoy your cannabis and friends.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s