Where did '420' come from anyway?

Posted on April 18 2016

The number 420 and by extension, the 20th of April have become a huge part of cannabis culture. Where did 420 start though, and why has it stuck around so firmly? 

There are many rumours about the origins of 420 and why it means so much to people who smoke marijuana. These include things such as the death of Bob Marley and the Radio Code for Police dispatchers in response to marijuana offences. Some people have given the reason as the 20th of April is the best time to plant cannabis outside. All of these reasons are unfortunately false though. The real reason is even weirder. 

It all started with the early 70s, when it was common for 4pm to be the start of the smoking hour for high school students in San Rafael, CA. 

A group of stoners called themselves ‘The Waldos’ - because they used to hang out in front of a wall. When they saw each other in school, they would give each other a knowing glance while saying ‘420 Louis!’ as they passed each other by. 

One of the Waldos told the San Francisco chronicle in 2000 that ‘It was just a joke’, but 420 meant a lot of things to them. They used it as a code word and would meet in front of a statue of Louis Pasteur, to get high at 4.20pm. 

The term caught on and buy the end of the decade 420 was everywhere. Fans of the Grateful Dead, known as ‘deadheads’ left San Rafael and spread the word to the 4 corners of the earth. 

Today, 420 is a number that every single stoner knows, and has made its home within cannabis culture, all from a few high school kids using it as a joke with each other.



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