This week, cannabis enthusiasts the world over celebrated April 20, or 4/20. For decades, 420 has been shorthand for cannabis, but there are many misconceptions about where the name comes from. Some have speculated and made wild guesses, tying it back to a Bob Dylan song, Grateful Dead, the death of Bob Marley, or the chemical compounds in cannabis.
The truth is that 420 is not a scientific calculation or a mysterious decoded song lyric. It is, surprisingly, a time of day.
In History Channel’s “The Hazy History of 420,” the 420 moniker originated from five California teenagers. They were known as “the Waldos,” and they would hang out – doing nothing in particular, wink, wink – at a wall outside their high school.
In the fall of 1971, the Waldos learned of a Coast Guard member who had planted a cannabis plant and could no longer tend to the crop. Provided with a treasure map (some say by the plant’s owner himself) supposedly leading to the abandoned product, the group would meet at the Louis Pasteur statue outside their high school at least once a week conduct a search. Their meeting time? 4:20 p.m, after practice (they were all athletes). The Waldos would pile into a car, smoke some pot and scour the nearby Point Reyes Forest for the elusive, free herb.
“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 did score the free bud, but perhaps they stumbled on to something more lasting? The term 420 was coined, allowing the high schoolers to discuss smoking pot without their parents or teachers knowing.
The Grateful Dead Connection
One of the common theories does get something right, though. Grateful Dead – and their fan base, the Deadheads – are partially responsible for 420 spreading beyond a small group of California teenagers. One of the original Waldos, Steve Capper, explains:
“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.”
April 20, or 4/20, became a day of cannabis activism, education, and appreciation. It is a winking acknowledgment of the plant’s history and the camaraderie of good friends, looking for a good smoke.
Readers, we want to hear from you! How did you celebrate 4/20? Leave a comment below!