The History Behind 4/20

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A High Holiday: The History Behind 4/20

Everywhere around the world, weed lovers will certainly get lit at 4:20 on April 20. Whether that’s in the afternoon or well into the wee hours of the morning, no one knows. One thing is certain, though: the green revolution is definitely in full swing.

It can no longer be denied that people, Americans and non-Americans alike, are beginning to have changing perceptions of marijuana. In US states where marijuana use is legal, weed can be used to alleviate pain from critical illnesses or simply for recreational purposes.

Cannabis use has permeated popular culture as well, finding its way into the consciousness and language of people. The term 420 is familiar, whether or not you’re a stoner. In the movie Pulp Fiction, for example, some clocks are set to 4:20. The room number at the hotel featured in Hot Tub Time Machine is 420.

While this three-digit number is well-known, its origins are as hazy as the smoke from a blunt. Some say 420 is a police code for illegal marijuana use. Others say it’s taken from the Bob Dylan song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” (Multiply the two numbers, and you get 420.) Other people also think it’s the number of chemicals present in marijuana, although that can be disputed since the correct number is actually 483.

There are many urban legends surrounding this number, and one possible answer takes you on a trip to the past. Before lighting up and getting the good giggles, though, sit back and watch as we unroll the history of 4/20 in this video.


Ladies and gents, ’tis the season to be stoked as April 20 is about to roll around the corner. While marijuana users gather to light a joint, ready to get giddy and giggle, let’s find out why 420 is so significant to weed lovers.

One possible answer takes us back to the fall of 1971 in Marin County, California. In San Rafael High School, five high school kids met at 4:20 in the afternoon. These boys called themselves Waldos, referring to the fact that they hung out by a wall as they smoked weed.

The Waldos heard about a Coast Guard member who could no longer take care of his marijuana plants, which were on a plot near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station, and decided to look for this plot of precious pot. They used 420 as their secret code for that activity. Every day at 4:20, they met up, treasure map in tow, but they never did find the plot.

Eventually, the code word got around, becoming more popular. In 1990, some fans of Grateful Dead handed out a flyer saying “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.” Weed-smoking Deadheads got together before the concert to toke up.

Pretty amazing, huh?

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Sources:

  1. 420waldos
  2. Weedlist
  3. RegisterGuard
  4. CNN
  5. NYDailyNews
  6. Independent
  7. Time
  8. MotherJones
  9. Vox
  10. MentalFloss