Every year on April 20th (4/20), cannabis enthusiasts around the world honor marijuana and celebrate the concept of 420. What is 420 and where did this tradition come from? A lot of people know about the holiday and use the term 420 regularly, but not many people know where the term originated. On this hallowed 4/20, we’ll be running you through the history of 420 and why we celebrate it today.
Everyone has their own way to celebrate, but one of the most widespread traditions is a New Year’s Eve-style countdown and celebratory smoke at exactly 4:20 p.m.
History of 4/20
420, as most are aware, is a slang term in cannabis culture. It’s generally used to signify that you’re cool with cannabis, or “420 friendly”. Because of this, people celebrate weed annually on 4/20 or daily at 4:20 pm.
The origins of the ubiquitous phrase are often forgotten or misattributed. In fact, the term originated in 1971 in San Rafael, California. It can be traced back to a group of five Bay Area high school students who called themselves the ‘Waldos’. In the fall of 1971, the Waldos heard a rumor that members of the Coast Guard had planted a cannabis crop at a nearby location, Point Reyes. The marijuana plant had been abandoned, but a really crude map leading to the treasured cannabis crop existed. Somehow, the Waldos got ahold of this map and decided to search for this mythical marijuana. The group planned to meet at 4:20 p.m. on the San Rafael High School campus in front of the school’s statue of Louis Pasteur.
The Waldos met up, got high, and drove out to Point Reyes in search of the abandoned plant. Unfortunately, they didn’t find any marijuana on this first trip. That didn’t discourage the spirited treasure hunters, and they came back week after week.
Whenever they ran into each other in the hallways at school, they would call out “420 Louis” as reminder of the meet-up time and location. After a few weeks, they ended up dropping “Louis” and were just using the term ‘420’. Soon, they started using 420 as a code for weed.
In the beginning, 420 was just a thing between the Waldos — but it didn’t take long for other students at San Rafael High to start using it as well. From there, the popularity spread quickly. The slang even managed to be heard by the Bay Area band the Grateful Dead while they were rehearsing in San Rafael. Once it reached the Grateful Dead and their fans, 420 was cemented in stoner language forever.
Wait, That’s Not What I Heard!
There have been a lot of rumors over the years about the origin of 420:
- Police code for pot – This was not true in the past. However, now that the term has become mainstream, some police departments have started using 420 as a code for pot.
- Number of chemical compounds in cannabis – This has been proven false as well. That said, there are over 500 chemical entities and over 100 cannabinoids within cannabis.
- Somehow it has to do with the birth or death of Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Hitler — basically any famous person born on April 20. None of these are true, either.
While you might protest and say there’s no way to actually prove these origins are incorrect… there actually is!
How the Waldo Origin Was Proved
Though many have disputed the origin of 420, the Waldos have evidence to back up their claims. One of their friends did an art project during the time that included the words 420 next to a cannabis leaf. There’s apparently even a mention of it in their high school newspaper.
On top of that, the Oxford English Dictionary went through all the evidence and updated their own online definition for ‘420’ to credit the high school students from San Rafael and their mission to find a hidden cannabis stash.
You can even listen to one of the Waldos, Dave Reddix, tell his story of how they created the phrase on the Bay Curious podcast from KQED.
Now that you know the origin of the term, it’s time to celebrate!
There’s a ton of events happening on 4/20 throughout the world. You can check online to see if there are any near you. If you’re in a legal state, then it shouldn’t be too hard to find a 420 celebration. Here’s a list of some big ones that happen annually:
- Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
- Mile High 420 Festival at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado.
- High Times Cannabis Cup Central Valley 2019 on April 20th-21st in Sacramento, CA
- The National Cannabis Festival at RFK Festival Grounds in Washington, D.C.
- 420Fest at the Culture Yard in Seattle, Washington.
Even if you can’t make it to any of these 420 events, there’s still a lot that you can do on your own to celebrate on 4/20! Here’s an exciting list of how you can spend your time:
- Invite stoner friends over to throw a 4/20 party! Some good bud, friends, food, and entertainment can be a lot more fun than getting lost in the crowds of big 420 event.
- Check out The Weed Tube and all the incredible, fun videos the cannabis community has produced. Get high while you watch other people get high!
- Spend your day binge-watching cannabis-related shows like Weeds, Disjointed, Fuck, That’s Delicious, or any of the shows mentioned in the Dankest TV Shows list.
- Spend the day crafting some potent cannabis-infused food.
- Head to your local dispensary and purchase some CBD and THC products to use.
- Order take-out and relax while watching a film from the Dankest Movies list.
Overall, 4/20 is like stoner Christmas. It’s one of the most fun, chill holidays of the year. So raise a joint, blaze it, and enjoy this dope tradition! We hope that you have a dank 420.