History of 420

The term “420” is synonymous with weed and cannabis culture. Have you ever stopped to ponder where this term originally came from? Maybe you've heard a few different versions about where the term came from. 


There are many that know the reference and many tales surrounding its origin. Join us as we look at the hazy origins of “420” and how it became internationally recognized and celebrated by many cannabis enthusiasts.


Some believe it is a reference to Adolf Hitler’s birthday (April 20th, 1889), others are convinced it is combination of the numbers 12 and 35 from Bob Dylan’s hit “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35" (which when multiplied does in fact equal 420), and of course many have speculated many other theories from “420” being a police code for marijuana related crimes, the total number of active chemicals in weed, to referencing tea time in Holland.


Then there is the following story… Which of these tales do you believe is the true origin of 420?


Where did 420 come from?

What Does 420 Mean?

The term 420 can refer to the general consumption of cannabis and is even used to show acceptance of cannabis use and culture. Often used to signify the specific time to consume cannabis (4:20) as well as globally the date (April 20th), which is now unofficially considered Weed Day. 


Where Does the Term 420 Come From?

Some say it all began back in the 1971 with a group of five teens who lived in a suburb of California near San Fransisco. They are often referred to as “The Waldos” inspired from the wall they used to hang out by outside their school in San Rafael, California.


Legend has it this group of teens got word of a Coast Guard member who had planted a cannabis plant but was unable to tend to his crop any longer. With a treasure map of sorts in their hands which supposedly would lead to the abandoned plant, the teens would regularly convene outside of their school under the Louis Pasteur statue on a weekly basis. Can you take a guess on their regular meeting time? You guessed it, 420.


At 4:20 PM the Waldo’s would hop in their car, smoke pot, and search the local Point Reyes Forest with a single mission of finding the abandoned marijuana plant. A former member of the group told the Huffington Post that he recalled themselves reminding each other about their meet up at 4:20 when passing each other in the halls. Originally referenced as 420-Louis, and eventually shortened to just 420.


Word is that unfortunately the group never found the elusive pot they worked so hard at finding. However, we think what they did stumble upon ended up being a bit more lasting. From there the term 420 was coined, providing a low-key way for students to talk pot with their parents and teachers being none the wiser.


How did 420 become widespread?

How Did 420 Become Widespread?

So how in the world did a term that a small group of students invent explode into an internationally recognized term that is still prevalent today?


Well, supposedly the members of group had an indirect connection with the Grateful Dead. One of the boys’ fathers managed the bands real estate. Rumors also indicate that one of the "Waldo's" older brothers knew Grateful Dead bassist and marijuana enthusiast Phil Lesh.


This access to the band allowed the group of five students to a place called Winterland, where they would frequently be allowed backstage or even on stage openly tossing around the term 420 when passing a joint.


From there, the term 420 became history and exploded throughout the community. What further catapulted the term to even more widespread use was it being referenced on a flyer promoting a hangout before Grateful Dead concerts. Promoted as a meet up at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing. Once Steven Bloom, a reported for High Times, saw this flyer in 1990 and the story was highlighted in “High Times” magazine, the word turned global.


How Popular is 420 Today?

Today 420 remains an unofficial holiday celebrated worldwide. Two colleges, the University of Colorado and the University of California, which have unofficially the largest smoke outs on Weed Day have attempted to tame this popular holiday without luck, it remains as celebrated today as much as ever. 


Fast forward four decades from the term's inception to 2003 when California passed their medical marijuana program. California legislature codified the law and the bill was named SB 420. No one knows who tied the term to this bill, but our guess is that it was no coincidence.


420 has also been referenced in many mainstream movies and pop culture. Movies such as “Pulp Fiction” featuring a scene with many of the clocks were set to 420. 420 makes even more appearances in one of the early episodes of "Family Guy" and numerous songs throughout the years. 


Today, with more federally legal alternatives to traditional THC, even more people can openly participate in, what is the Black Friday, of cannabis holidays. 


Conclusion, The True Origin of 420

Regardless of which 420 story you believe is true; the unofficial Weed Day is here to stay. The cannabis community, the silver screen, and cannabis enthusiasts around the globe have adopted and engrained the term "420" into our culture. 


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