The Origin of 420 💨
Take a ride on the magic school bus 🚌
The story of how 420 became synonymous with cannabis was shrouded in mystery. Until now. Let's get to the nitty-gritty about how the sticky icky and “420” got rolled up together.
10 Facts + Myths about 420:
Police radio code to bust young punks smoking up
Not so much. NYPD and LAPD have never had such a code. San Francisco PD does but that for juvenile disturbances. We see how that could be misconstrued.
April 20th is Bob Marley's Birthday
False, but his son Stephen Marley was born on April 20th. Still not related.
Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” has a lyric “Everybody must get stoned” (If you multiply 12 x 35 you get… 420)
Coincidence. Although this Nobel Laureate did famously turn some small band called The Beatles onto cannabis, we can safely say 420 didn’t start with him.
Dr. Dre invented the term when he produced "The Chronic"
Nope. But funny story, the term "chronic" came from his friend Calvin Cordozor Broadus Jr. also known as Snoop Dogg. During an episode of Snoop's GGN with Seth Rogen, the Dogfather explains how he misheard a guy say the word “hydroponic” as “hydrochronic” and shorted it to just "chronic". As the great Bob Ross would say, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.
Five students from San Rafael High School in California used to meet at 4:20pm to go on a treasure hunt to find a cannabis farm
As wild and weird as it sounds, yes! The map was given to them by a friend of a friend who was a US coast guard. The 5 guys nicknamed themselves “The Waldos” and at 4:20pm they would meet up at the statue of chemist Louis Pasteur on the campus of San Rafael High to start their search.
Is there proof?
Yeah. A bunch of it. In fact, they’re the only group to have any proof at all. Some of the best documentation are in letters written between the group which have been investigated and verified by numerous credible sources.
Did they ever find the plants?
Unfortunately not. Eventually, they would drop the “Louis” part from “420 Louis.” Over time, 420 became synonymous amongst themselves for being “high” or anything related to cannabis. Legend has it, they’re all still really good friends to this day.
How did the term go from 5 stoners to becoming shorthand for cannabis? Some have said it’s because of The Grateful Dead. Is this true?
In a way, yes. The Waldos had several connections to The Grateful Dead, specifically bassist Phil Lesh. It was rumored that the term 420 really started to spread among loyal “Deadheads'' and across Northern California when a concert flyer promoted one giant pot smoking session at 4:20pm on April 20th.
A year later, the flyer was published in an article of High Times magazine about cannabis culture and soon it became known worldwide as code for marijuana.
Besides being a day to embrace cannabis culture, has it led to any real world change?
This remains unclear from a legalization perspective. More countries than ever are considering some of the prohibitions on cannabis for various reasons. Activism, consumerism and trends in societal change can all be attributed.
In fact, back in 2003, the California state legislature adopted the Medical Marijuana Program aka "SB 420" which established the state’s first medical marijuana program.
According to the Waldos themselves, the core meaning to 420 culture a was to create "endless unlimited curiosity moving forward into the future, scouting out the most interesting and fun out-of-the ordinary experiences."
So what does the future hold for 420?
Although “420” was nothing more than secret slang, it’s proven to stand the test of time, being passed down from generation to generation. As more and more countries legalize cannabis, 420 will undoubtedly continue to grow in popularity. Then like all things, the more popular it gets the less ‘cool’ it gets but we don’t care for its coolness.
Let it be a day of celebration and reflection of how far we’ve come. Happy 420 friends!