April 20, 2022

Today “420” is the unofficial pot holiday celebrating use of the drug.  Please use the information below as a starting point for further learning and thoughtful discussions with your family, friends and policy makers.  Please share widely with those that care about kids!

Where did the term “420” originate?

  • Myth #1  Some claim the number is from the California criminal code used to punish the use or distribution of marijuana. 

FACT: California’s criminal code that references 420 actually applies to willful obstruction of entry on public land-and is not related to marijuana criminal charges .

-The term “420” began as a secret code among California high schoolers in the early 1970s. It was the time of day when kids were out of school and parents weren't home from work.  This  provided the perfect unsupervised time to get high. “420” became a code to use in front of unsuspecting parents, and gradually spread, eventually representing  the  unofficial holiday for marijuana use.


Why it Matters:

  • Myth #2  What’s the problem? It’s just a little pot. 
  • Myth #3  Marijuana is a natural, organic plant.

FACT: Today’s marijuana is not what you may have experienced in your youth. It is exponentially stronger.  Legal manufacturers extract THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, to achieve an unnatural high potency.   

-Marijuana potency of “flower or bud” has increased from about 4% in the 1980s to an average of over 15% today.  

-Marijuana extracts, used in dabbing and edibles, are made by using a number of dangerous chemicals including ethanol, butane, propane and other compounds. These processes are not regulated by the FDA, and can contain an average of 50% and up to +90% THC.


What you need to know:

What are the facts when kids hear false messages?  Myth vs Fact

  • Myth #4  Marijuana helps with sleep.
  • Myth #5   I need marijuana to help me focus  and study.

FACT: Product claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  The products should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any ailment or disease.

-According to the Food and Drug Administration “Unlike drugs approved by FDA, products that have not been subject to FDA review as part of the drug approval process have not been evaluated as to whether they work, what the proper dosage may be if they do work, how they could interact with other drugs, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.”

-Frequent marijuana use is associated with impaired learning and memory for kids and young adults, up to 28 days after last use.  The impairment increases with more frequent marijuana use and is associated with failure to graduate from high school and not attaining a college degree.

  • Myth #6  Marijuana helps with depression and anxiety.
  • Myth #7  Marijuana is good for my mental health issues.

FACT:  Studies show that frequent use of marijuana can cause anxiety and exacerbate other mental health issues.

-A report by the Senate on International Narcotics Control in March 2021 summarized that daily use of cannabis containing 10% or more THC increases the chance of developing psychosis almost 5X compared to non-users. 

-In Colorado, the state with the longest experience with THC commercialization, THC is now overwhelmingly the #1 substance found in toxicology reports conducted on completed suicides for ages 10-24. (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)


  • Myth #8  You can't get a DUI while driving high.
  • Myth #9   I’m a safer driver when I’m high.

FACT: On average, more than 60 people are arrested each day in Colorado for DUI, including drugs, alcohol or a combination of both.

-Since recreational marijuana was legalized, the percentage of all Colorado traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased from 11% in 2013 to 20% in 2020. 

-More than 9% of drivers ages 16-20 admit to having driven under the influence of marijuana. Mixing marijuana and alcohol adds to the crash risk, especially for teens.


  •  Myth #10  Marijuana helps with morning sickness.

FACT:  The United States Surgeon General statement is clear: No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe.

-A 2018 study found 69% of 400 Colorado marijuana dispensaries surveyed (both medical and recreational) were recommending marijuana to pregnant women. Harms of THC include reduced fetal growth, greater risk of stillbirth, preterm birth, low birth weight, and long-term brain development issues affecting memory, cognition and behavior. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

-This Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warning is now mandatory in all Colorado  marijuana dispensaries.  

  • Myth #11  It’s sold as medicine so it must be safe.

FACT: Medical marijuana use is not held to the same standard as other medications requiring a prescription including dosage, directions for use, and follow-up with a physician before allowing unlimited refills.  Salespersons at dispensaries are not medical professionals or physicians and should not be recommending marijuana to treat any ailment.

-Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that causes bouts of severe and unrelenting  vomiting that can last for hours or days.  This usually occurs with long time heavy users.  

-The American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a position statement in opposition to the use of marijuana as medicine, citing the lack of scientific evidence supporting marijuana as medicine.


  • Myth #12  Marijuana is not addictive.

FACT: Marijuana use can lead to the development of a marijuana use disorder, a form of dependence which can be considered addiction in severe cases.

- Recent data suggest that 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder.  

-Frequent users often report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks.

-People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4-7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.

-Emerging research shows the #1 contributor to future opioid use disorder is marijuana use before the age of 18 (Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2020)


  • Myth #13 Marijuana is not getting into the hands of kids

FACT:  In 2021, only 80 compliance checks were completed for the 1074 Colorado dispensaries. Only 16 have been completed in the first quarter of 2022.  Over two billion dollars of recreation marijuana was sold in 2022. This extremely small number of compliance checks fails to hold dispensaries accountable for age compliance checks.

-As of February 2021, there were less than 300 patients ages 0-17 in Colorado with medical marijuana cards, but almost 4,000 between the ages 18-20 with the main reason noted as severe pain.  Medical cards purchased legally by 18 year olds (high school seniors) help supply our schools with a steady stream of products from the legal market.

Colorado’s 4/20 event does not restrict age for attendance.  To get a free ticket all that is required is a name and email address,  allowing vendors to reach out with marijuana marketing.  Billed as the “largest 420 festival in the world” with 50,000 attendees expected,  it will be a smoke fest and non-stop advertisement for marijuana products.

What you can do:

Sign our petition and tell 420 Festival corporate sponsors to restrict access to attendees 21+.


Be mindful that the marijuana industry and products are evolving very rapidly.  Information and legislation needs to keep up.  Unfortunately, many new, radically different and often kid-friendly products are constantly being introduced and aggressively marketed.  Check out THCPhotos.org for current updates of today’s available products in states where THC is commercially available. Please visit our website if you would like more information and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thank you for your care and support in better protecting our kids. 

The One Chance Team



Additional resources:

MED Educational Resource

420 Tips for Parents, Caregivers and Trusted Adults


Contact Us

One Chance to Grow Up
789 Sherman Street, Suite 250
Denver, Colorado 80203

Follow Us

One Chance to Grow Up is an initiative developed by Smart Colorado that focuses on protecting kids across the nation from the dangers of today’s marijuana. We don’t take sides on the politics of legalization for adults but instead serve as a reliable resource for parents, media, policymakers, and all those who care about kids. Started by concerned parents, we’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by charitable contributions.

Unsubscribe or Manage Your Preferences