The Real Story of 4/20
Every year on 4/20, cannabis consumers across the globe come together to celebrate their love of the plant. But why is April 20th the marijuana holiday? What does the number 420 have to do with smoking, vaping and dabbing?
As with many things cannabis, the answer can get a little...hazy. Some claim that 420 was police code for "marijuana smoking in progress" (it’s not). Others have a pseudo-science theory that it was the number of molecular compounds in cannabis (it's not).
The real history behind the 4/20 holiday is way more fitting than chemistry or a police code. It’s a story of what makes cannabis great: friends, music, and fun.
The origins of 4/20 started in 1971 at San Rafael high school in California's Bay Area with a group of five friends. They called themselves "The Waldos," and not because they were hard to find in a crowd. In fact, they knew exactly where each Waldo would be: hanging out by the wall near the school's Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20pm, when their extracurricular activities let out. The Waldos also knew what they would be doing at the wall: smoking marijuana.
They called it by their code word, "420."
The Waldos would then follow a crudely drawn map that supposedly led to an abandoned marijuana crop by the Point Reyes lighthouse. The map never led them to treasure, but they kept their code word to secretly plan their smoke sessions. The Waldos had no idea that 420 was about to spread from the pages of passed notes and into cannabis history.
The Grateful Dead and 420
Post high school, the Waldos started hanging out with another icon of cannabis culture: The Grateful Dead. Thanks to a family connection, one of the Waldos became a roadie for the Bay Area jam band. This gave the other Waldos backstage passes to concerts, rehearsals, and afterparties, which meant plenty of opportunities for 420 with the band.
The Grateful Dead loved the term "420" as much as they loved smoking weed and adopted the Waldos' code word. As the Grateful Dead toured non-stop through the 1970's and 1980's, the term 420 spread far and wide among their equally cannabis-friendly fans, the Deadheads.
Deadheads, High Times, and 4/20
In December of 1990 outside a Grateful Dead show, a group of Oakland Deadheads were handing out home-made flyers to concert goers. The flyers invited everyone to gather together the next year and enjoy some "420" at 4:20pm on 4/20, either at nearby Bolinas Ridge or with friends at home.
One of those flyers was handed to the editor of High Times Magazine. Much like the Grateful Dead, he thought that 420 had a nice ring to it. He started using the term frequently in the popular cannabis magazine, and decided to print a copy of the flyer in an upcoming issue.
Thanks to High Time’s wide distribution, 4/20 was no longer just a local gathering for Bay Area Deadheads. Thousands of readers saw the flyer, and the date and time for getting together to smoke some cannabis was marked on calendars all over the world. A marijuana holiday was born.
4/20 Lives On
The term 420 has come a long way from some high schoolers' code word to a day celebrated by cannabis loves everywhere – encouraged by holiday discounts on their favorite products, of course. However, the meaning behind 4/20 remains the same as it was when the Waldos first met by that high school wall: gather with friends, enjoy some marijuana, and have a great time. After all, life is better with cannabis.