Why Does Elon Musk Keep Referencing 420?

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Few people in the world today have the influence of Tesla founder Elon Musk on Twitter. Whatever topic he touches generates interest. The same applies to the people who engage with him. Musk has made everyone from students to psychologists famous just by responding to their Tweets.

Given the scrutiny applied to his every word and deed, it’s little wonder people have noticed something that keeps coming up in Musk’s Tweets: the number 420.

There’s no need in this space to explain 420 (although here’s a look at its history). But who could have expected that the number’s unique meaning in cannabis culture would lead to a volley of 420 references?

The 420 blitz was spearheaded by Musk’s recent announcement of a takeover bid of Twitter (made on Twitter, of course). His price per share offer: $54.20. That numerical reference to 420 – hardly Musk’s first – opened the media floodgates.

For example, The New York Times published an article exclusively devoted to Musk’s “420” references. Barron’s referred to Musk’s “cannabis-themed Twitter offer.” The New Yorker published a cartoon by Barry Blitt that merged cannabis and the Twitter takeover bid, published on April 20, naturally.

But it didn’t end there, with recent references popping up in SEC filings and tequila prices.

RELATED: Meet the Hippies Who Invented the Term 420


Just trying to make his girlfriend laugh

As Melina Delkic at The Times noted: “In some form or fashion, the number 420 has appeared in filings, tweets and interviews related to Mr. Musk and his business.” That’s not a shocker to those who follow Musk (as 82.9 million do on Twitter).

The references seemed to start in August 2018, when Musk announced he wanted to take Tesla private at $420 per share. Apparently, he was trying to amuse his girlfriend. The source for that is, somewhat surprisingly, the Securities Exchange Commission.

In a complaint filed against Musk, SEC officials addressed how Musk arrived at the $420 price. The complaint states Musk first landed on $419 per share based on a 20 percent premium over that day’s closing stock price. The complaint continues: “Musk stated that he rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend ‘would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price.’”

A month later, Musk famously took a drag off a joint while interviewed on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, an act that drew tons of attention and plenty of analysis. That episode currently has more than 54 million views on YouTube.

RELATED: Across the Country, Cannabis Dispensaries Saw Biggest 420 Sales Ever

Twitter gets into the 420 act

Musk had quietly acquired about 9 percent ownership of Twitter before making the announcement of his takeover bid at $54.20 per share. In its effort to block the takeover, Twitter officials apparently decided not to get outdone on 420 references, either.

The company filed a policy change with the SEC that would limit a shareholder’s ability to acquire more than 15 percent of the company. In that filing, the company states that if someone attempts to buy more than 15 percent, Twitter stockholders can exercise a right to pay $210 to acquire more stock in the company, thus diluting the stock and making a takeover bid difficult to pull off.

They further note that stock purchased at the $210 exercise price would have double the value of the exercise price. You can do the math. Points to Twitter for (comparative) subtlety.

It didn’t end there. Tesla released its Q1 earnings report on April 20th. That same day, the company added a Tesla Tequila Limited Edition to its store. It immediately sold out. The price? $420.

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