Origins of 420

While there are plenty of slang and code words in the marijuana culture, none come close in popularity and frequency of use to the now infamous “420”. It may not be very noticeable when you’re not paying attention, but those aware of its meaning use the term to let others know that they smoke marijuana without making it obvious.

The term often refers to the time of the day, making it traditional to smoke marijuana at 4:20 (am or pm). Furthermore, April 20th (4/20) has become a counterculture holiday celebrating everything marijuana related.

Depending on who you ask, you may get a different story about 420’s origins, as there are several versions floating around the cannabis community.

Some of these attribute the number 420 being celebrated because 420 was a police radio code for smoking marijuana, or because there are 420 molecules in Cannabis. The generally accepted story of the origins of the term 420 comes from San Rafael, California back in the 70’s.

A group of teenagers in San Rafael, California, calling themselves the Waldos, used to hang out outside their school. In the Fall of 1971, they decided to search for an abandoned cannabis crop they had heard about.

Their meeting spot was the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School, and 4:20pm was the meeting time. They first referred to their plan as “4:20 Louis”, which was eventually shortened to simply “420”.

It is said that the Waldos never found that abandoned crop, but their repeated attemps at discovering it ensured a place for them in the history of marijuana culture.

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