The cannabis vocabulary is like an endless treasure vault. There are so many slang terms and buzzwords in the community that even the most experienced weed enthusiasts can get lost in the maze of not-so-obvious terminology.
Nonetheless, the 420 number has been so deeply rooted in our culture that it’s nearly impossible to find a person who wouldn’t know the meaning of 420, which — just for the record — is the official celebration date for cannabis lovers (April 20).
But are you sure you know the exact origins of 420?
Many “420” revelers are unaware of the origins of the word, but they have no problem telling once-heard tales about its history.
The rumor has grown to the point where some people have started to believe it’s the number of active compounds in marijuana; others think that it’s the marijuana equivalent of teatime in Holland; math geniuses have even linked 420 to Bob Dylan’s legendary “Everybody must get stoned” chorus from his hit “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35” — you know, 12 times 35 equals 420.
But in fact, the origins of 420 are as simple as its meaning. They date back to the fall of 1971 and a group of five California students who used to meet each other after their classes in San Rafael school – the Waldos.
Whether expressed as a calendar date (4/20), a time of day (4:20) or a numeral, 420 — which reads four-twenty, not four hundred and twenty — is a slang term for using and enjoying marijuana.
April 20 has eventually become the international “Marijuana Appreciation Day” or “Weed Day”, when all cannabis enthusiasts across the world light up for the legalization movement, to which the “420” term is strongly bound.
Any self-respecting cannabis aficionado has smoked weed at 4:20 at least once in their lifetime. Whether it was 4:20 AM or 4:20 PM — we’re not to judge.
Now that we’ve explained the meaning of 420, it’s high time (see what we did there?) you learned a bit about the origins of 420.
The Waldos was a group of high school colleagues who, in the fall of 1971, learned of a Coast Guard member who grew a cannabis plant and could no longer cultivate it.
Provided with a treasure map that supposedly was to lead the guys to the abandoned products, the group would meet by the statue of Louis Pasteur near their high school at least one time in a week to search for the precious goods.
As you might’ve already guessed, their meeting time was 4:20 p.m, right after their physical education classes. The Waldos would jump into a car, smoke some weed inside, and search through the nearby Point Reyes forest for the promised free herb.
As one of the original members of the Waldos told Huffington Post, “We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis, and we eventually dropped the Louis.”
They never found the free bud, but instead, they made history by introducing the world to one of the most famous weed slang words that later won the hearts of all cannabis enthusiasts around the world.
But how did this group of high school students in California manage to spread their secret smoking code internationally?
This is where the Grateful Dead comes to play.
The Waldos had open access, and many connections, to the Grateful Dead. Their family members managed the Dead’s real estate and were good friends with Dead bassist Phil Lesh, managing their sideband.
Here’s what Capper told the Huffington Post:
“There was a place called Winterland, and we’d always be backstage running around or on stage and, of course, we’re using those phrases. When somebody passes a joint or something, ‘Hey, 420.’ So it started spreading through that community.”
In 1990, the former reporter for “High Times” Steven Bloom heard about 420 for the first time during Christmas week at a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland, California.
Bloom found himself among the crowd of hippies that would gather before Dead concerts and one of the fans handed him a flyer that said, “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.”
Bloom took that flayer to “High Times” and they immediately latched on to the story, helping launch the buzzword globally.
In 2012, we were witnesses to a cannabis controversy that arose when a pro-weed website, 420 Magazine, published an article about a man from a group that called themselves The Bebes. The man claimed that it was the Bebes who came up with the term 420. He also accused Waldos of being just self-promoting wannabes who happened to attend San Rafael during that time.
Rob Griffin, the magazine’s editor in chief and the author of the article, found out in his research that Bebe had indeed invented the term 420, but it goes without saying that the Waldos had a much greater input in popularizing it. Huffington Post, on the other hand, argued that there was no hard evidence to back The Bebe’s claim. Meanwhile, the Waldos have left no stone unturned in their effort to prove their links to 420 in the media.
As with any urban stories, there are several false legends around the meaning of 420. Here are the 3 most commonly spread myths about 420:
Do you celebrate 4/20 or light up at 4:20 p.m.? What’s your favorite way to consume weed at that time?