If you didn’t already know, April 20th, or “four-twenty,” has evolved into the widely-accepted stoner holiday. Most people never realize why this was the chosen date or where the connection to marijuana even came from. We certainly didn’t. With a little bit of digging, the history behind arguably of the best holiday of the year was discovered!
It’s safe to say that there are many rumors and stories of the origin of 420. One popular story claims that “4-20” is the radio terminology police officers use for marijuana-related situations. Although this is partly true in regards to the origin story, we can quickly rule out this myth since radio code changes by cities/departments. Others thought that there must be 420 chemical compounds in marijuana, but that’s also incorrect.
Some believe the date stemmed from Hitler’s birthday, which also happens to be April 20th, but this is just an ironic coincidence. Another quirky “420” theory is that almost all of the clocks in the American cult classic “Pulp Fiction” are set to 4:20…coincidence, or not? A very popular rumor is that Bob Marley died on April 20th making it the best day to light up and honor the legendary singer. To set the record straight, Bob Marley died in May! While all of these are plausible stories, none are the true origin of 420.
So where did “420” actually come from!?
The real story originates from the town of San Rafael, California. Way back in 1971, five California teenagers known as “the Waldos” due to their hang out spot under the bleachers, caught rumor that marijuana plants had been grown by a coast guard veteran who was no longer able to take care of his crop. Interested in scoring some free greens, they began their own treasure hunt to find it.
As the story goes, the Waldos would go searching for this plant at least once a week at 4:20PM, at the conclusion of their after-school sports practices. They would meet up at the statue of Louis Pasteur at their high school, hop into one of boys’ car, and smoke while they drove out to the Point Reyes forest. Supposedly the Waldos had a treasure map that the coast guard gave them to help find the goods.
At the time, the boys used “420” in place of the word marijuana or in reference to marijuana festivities. For example, one could say, “do you want to 420?” and it would translate to “do you wanna smoke?” You could also ask “do you have 420?” when wondering if someone might be carrying pot on them. Ultimately, it was perfect expression to avoid running into trouble with parents & teachers. Although the Waldos never found the plant, their work managed to coin the term “420” in the long run.
So how did 420 get spread worldwide?
A few members of the Waldos had connections to the popular band, the Grateful Dead. One of the boys’ father was in charge of overseeing real estate for the band, and another of the Waldos’ brothers managed music groups and was close friends with Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead’s bass guitarist. These ties got the boys backstage access where they used to smoke together with the Dead during parties & rehearsals. During these smoke sessions, they unknowingly spread their 420 lingo amongst the Grateful Dead community. Throughout the remainder of the 70’s and then the 80’s, the “420” jargon continued to be used as they travelled & toured the world.
In 1990, High Times reporter Steven Bloom, discovered a flyer at a Grateful Dead concert that shared the story behind 420. If you are unfamiliar with High Times, it has been the leading source of cannabis news and information since 1974. The flyer said, “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County, at the old Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais”. He used his background to share the flyer, but not with the intention of spreading the phrase worldwide.
That level of attention can be attributed to Steve Hager, High Times editor. When he learned of “420”, he began incorporating it into everything the magazine did. He believes that the marketing and focus their events had around “420” is what finally spread this celebration on an international level. In 1997, the Waldos reached out to High Times magazine to confirm the rumored story of their existence and the true origin of 420. Their backgrounds were researched and it has all checked out to be true!
“It’s 4:20 somewhere!”
Although 420 has not been deemed an official holiday, it is known and celebrated worldwide! There are hundreds of annual events, parties, and fun activities centered around marijuana that occur on April 20th. There are bus tours, paint and puff classes, and music festivals in honor of the stoner holiday. There are even “cannabis and sex” classes that will educate people on how to enhance their sex lives using the herb!
The best day of the year is tomorrow! So grab your friends, grab your goods, and head out to the closest 420 event to celebrate!