Where Does 420 Come From?
Welcome to the most stoned month of the year! This is the month when us stoners really get to let our freak flags fly. Why is that? Because April is the host month of 4/20, the international pot smokers holiday. So, where did 4/20 originate?
There have been several theories over the years on where the term 4/20 originated from, ranging from Adolf Hitler’s birthday, to California police call-signs, to tea time in Holland, to esoteric Bob Dylan numerology (Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” because 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420, for those interested).
However, the narrative has more or less solidified in recent years, involving a group a teenage potheads in San Rafael California in the early 70s, the Grateful Dead, and High Times magazine.
The legend goes like this: In 1971 San Rafael a group of high schoolers called the Waldos heard a rumour that a coast guard member had to abandon a plot of marijuana plants in the woods near the coast guard station. They agreed to meet at 4:20 at a statue of Louis Pasteur outside their high school. For weeks they would meet at the statue at the same time everyday and fruitlessly go searching for the marijuana plants, getting high the whole time, of course. Originally they developed a code name for their meeting place: 4:20-Louis, which eventually was shortened to just 4:20 and became, for them, a useful codeword for getting stoned.
The Waldos reunited at the original 420 spot
So how did 4:20 go from an in joke among a group of stoned teenagers to a globally recognized term and essentially a holiday for many? Enter the Grateful Dead. One of the preeminent hippy bands, the Dead had relocated from their famous pad in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood to a new jam space just a few blocks away from the high school in San Rafael. And, as chance would have it one of the Waldos brothers managed a Dead side band and was friends with bassist Phil Lesh. This led to the Waldos being regular fixtures at Grateful Dead parties and jam sessions, and one way or another (memories seem to get a little hazy here), the term 420 percolated into the Deadhead vocabulary. The Grateful Dead played hundreds of shows a year all over the world, and by the early 90s the was ready for the mainstream.
The Grateful Dead
Enter High Times magazine reporter Steven Bloom. In 1990 Bloom went to a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland, and while hanging out in the parking lot with a bunch of dead heads he was handed a yellow flyer that read: “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” The flyer also included an (incorrect) history of the term: “420 started somewhere in San Rafael, California in the late ‘70s. It started as the police code for Marijuana Smoking in Progress. After local heads heard of the police call, they started using the expression 420 when referring to herb - Let’s Go 420, dude!”
The Original 420 Flyer
While the story about 420 being a police code for “Marijuana Smoking in Progress” was false, Steven Bloom liked the term and passed the flyer along to his bosses at High Times. High Times editor Steve Hager liked the term and ran with it, starting to incorporate the term in multiple events such as the Cannabis cup and World Hemp Expo Extravaganza, promoting it heavily in the magazine, and buying the web domain 420.com in the early 90s.
And from there, the term went global. Today stoners the world over wink at themselves when they notice a clock at 4:20 and gather in massive numbers on April 20th to blaze one up together.
So this 4/20, don't forget to stop by say high and spark one up for the Waldos! Be sure to check the website for all sorts of 420 fun and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest updates about the store.