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Why is 420 a Thing History Behind It

Marijuana enthusiasts all over the world consider April 20, or 4/20, as a very special day. It is referred to as the unofficial holiday for weed fanatics. This day has become associated with cannabis culture. You may be wondering, however, when did the connection between 420 and cannabis start

Well, there are a lot of stories behind it. Some are real, while some are just products of interesting images of avid cannabis supporters. Let us take a look as to why 420 is a thing, and the history behind its conception.

The Waldos

Despite the fact that the April 20 date is usually linked with marijuana, nobody really knows the reason behind its inception or the history behind it. Rather, stoners use it as an excuse to venture the streets to get their favorite weed.

As a matter of fact, the origins can be traced back to 1970 AD, with a group of friends in San Rafael, California, who called themselves as ‘The Waldos’. This group went on a fun treasure hunt for abandoned cannabis crops. These students were Steve Capper, Jeffrey Noel, Dave Reddix, Larry Schwartz,and Mark Gravich.

‘The Waldos’ name was created because these students love to hang-out at a wall just outside the school premises. One day, they learned about an abandoned cannabis crop and decided to search for it based on a treasure map that was created by the grower.

Their story about how it all started began one day sometime in the fall of 1971. It was harvest time. The group heard that a service member of the Coast Guard could no longer tend his marijuana plant plot near the Point Reyes forest of the Peninsula Coast Guard station. With a treasure map in hand, they decided to start an adventure to find the plot and somehow get some of the freebuds.

All of the members were athletes, and they decided to meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur just outside their school at 4:20, right after their sports practice, in order to start their hunt. They would usually remind each other when they meet in the hallways, that their meetup time is at 4:20.

The plan was then called the “4:20 Louis”. They tried several times, with several attempts to search for the crop. Later, the group shortened the planning phrase to just “4:20”, which then evolved ultimately into a code word that users use to refer to consuming cannabis. It was then believed that Steven Hager of High Times was the one responsible for claiming the Waldos story to an interesting one that describes the origin of the term.

Their very first adventures were unsuccessful, but they did not give up in looking for the hidden plot. They would usually meet at 4:20, and Steve would usually bring his old ’66 Chevy Impala, smoking instantly all their way out to Point Reyes. They did the same routine week after week, but they never really found the plot.

What they got out of that experience was a very useful codeword. They could just say “I would go 420, and the message was already sent.” It’s like a code for smoking weed, a permission to do so, asking if another person has any or a question whether another person is stoned or not. It was sort of telepathic how the term was used. The teachers and the parents did not know what the students were talking about.

Members of The Waldos never thought that weed smokers all over the world would be happy to celebrate April 20th as a result of their adventure to the Point Reyes forest. As a matter of fact, this day has even managed to become a day similar to a national holiday to them. Every year, celebrations are different. In some areas, schools even support smoke-outs.

The Grateful Dead

The further spread of the 420 crazes was also supported by the collapse of the hippie utopia in San Francisco in the late ’60s. Despite the fact that The Waldos spearheaded the use of the term, their association with the Grateful Dead inner circle has further promoted the use of 420 into the modern language. Mark Waldo’s father helped the Dead with transactions on real estate, while Dave’s older brother Patrick brother had a tight connection with Phil Lesh. All of the Waldo members were given all-access passes to the rehearsals, after parties, and shows of the Grateful Dead, where the term was further used during the 70s and 80s.

The Dead has a rehearsal hall located on Front Street in San Rafael California, where they usually practice there. The Waldos and the Dead used to hang out there to listen to the group playing music while enjoying a good high as they also continue to practice their gigs. It could be that they continue to use the term 420 in one of those conversations with the group. The Waldos also had open access to parties, where they got to spread the same term to other people present in the gathering as well.

This decade saw the presence of 420 carved right into benches and being spray painted on walls. This means that it evolved even outside the Waldos. One of the biggest factors of the popularity of 420 back then was the fact that the brother of Reddix was close friends with the bass player of Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh. The close association of the band with the entire city of San Rafael made 420 a part of the pop culture.

Famous Myths About 420

The term 420 has been used to refer to weed smoking. Even though this term was used historically as a code, a lot of people are now aware that it is associated with marijuana use. Despite its overall popularity, a lot of people usually have no idea how or why it eventually became linked with marijuana. In fact, there are a lot of stories and myths about its origins. Here are some of them:

  • 420 is the police dispatch code for weed smoking

A lot of non-users of weed have thought that the term 420 is a police dispatch code. This is but a myth! The number 420 is not a police radio code for dispatch or any other code. Despite the fact that it was suggested widely that it is linked with the California Penal Code, code 420 refers to a law regarding public land.

  • The number 420 refers to the number of active chemicals in weed

Some believe that there are about 420 active chemicals found in marijuana. This is also a myth because there are, in reality, over 315 active chemicals in cannabis. As a matter of fact, this number can even go up or down depending on the make-up of cannabis.

  • April 20 is the official national pot smokers day

Even though some actually believed that April 20 is the day to start growing your weed crops, others believed that it was a holiday. Both of these beliefs are not true. Rather, the term 420 has led people to consider April 20 was associated with cannabis. In reality, this date does not have any significance at all.

  • April 20 is associated with Hitler’s birthday

True, April 20 was the birthdate of the dictator Hitler, but it has nothing to do with weed. The term 420 referred to an actual time, not a date. The birthday of Hitler, or Hitler, himself, is not in any way connected with marijuana.

  • April 20 is the date of the infamous Columbine school shootings

The sad incident of the Columbine school shootings did happen on April 20th, 1999, but the term was already in place even before it actually happened.

  • Death anniversaries of famous personalities

Some believe that the term 420 refers to the death anniversaries of Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley. However, both of these famous personalities did not die on April 20. These celebrities were avid supporters of weed use, but they did not die on this date, unfortunately.

  • The Dylan song legend

There is one song by Bob Dylan, entitled ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & #35”, with its lyric line “Everybody must get stoned”. When you multiply both numbers, the product is 420. This can be somewhat unbelievable for a stretch, but Dylan himself never made any confirmation regarding the connection of these two.

The Impact of 420 on Modern Generation

Even though the term 420 has already been around for a long time already, decades even, the internet has not. For this reason, a lot of today’s teens are currently accessing games, pictures,and websites that really glorify weed regularly.

The modern generation has no idea about the background of the 420 terms, especially the fact that it is already an old phrase. This is why the term has been used liberally in front of some adult. Some even though it is some sort of a secret term which was developed by modern drug subculture.

In fact, thinking that it is a cool thing to smoke weed each day at 4:20, or assuming the need to join in smoking on April 20, made a lot of younger ones join in. At the same time, social media also glorifies weed use. Compared with several years ago, it is now much easier for the young ones to get caught up in thinking that everybody is doing it. The legalization of weed use in certain areas, as well as the term medical marijuana,  have even led young ones to believe that it is very safe to use.

How People Celebrate 420

Originally, April 20 was just a counterculture holiday that people spend in order to protest both legal and social stigmas against marijuana. The legalization of weed undercuts this purpose. These days with big corporations and businesses starting to grow and sell weed, cannabis will slowly lose its overall status as it is called a counterculture symbol. The media is also covering 420 as an interesting story, making it more popular than ever.

The pot industry, on the other hand, has gotten involved directly in different 420 events. For example, the Cannabis Cup has already been considered as a major event at some city’s 420 event rally, where vendors often show off their best weed products to several thousands of attendees. Through the years, the event has continued to grow, even featuring huge concert performances from notable musicians such as 2 Chainz, Soja,and Snoop Dogg, as well as a wide array of weed businesses as sponsors.

The Cannabis Cup is but one of the many events usually celebrated in connection with 420. There are also comedy shows, weed-friendly speed dating, as well as trade shows for bongs and glass pipes, offering both celebrities and businesses with various opportunities to introduce their brands and products.

Some individuals may not attend the public events at all, choosing to stay home instead and enjoy a good joint together with friends. For these people, 420 remains as a casual affair that does not have to be backed up by big marketing and sponsorship. Still, in public, 420 increasingly becomes a popular commercial holiday.


The history of 420, while claimed by some, has nothing to do in connection with Bob Marley, the police code, or the chemical compounds found in cannabis. In fact, no really seems to really care as to how the date got selected. The seemingly hazy history of 420 has remained obscure for a special reason. The only thing that matters as of now is that it is a very special day among stoners. Users from all walks of life gather together to celebrate a seemingly shared philosophy – that marijuana is amazingly dope!

This holiday is very important because it serves as a remembrance to where we have come from, and the work related to the cannabis industry that still has to be done these days. Regardless of your reason and belief, 420 has already become special to a lot of people.

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