The History of 420 [Video]
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. ---- Over the past 40 years, 4:20 or 4/20 has become synonymous with pot smoking. However, many people, including ardent pot smokers don’t know the real history behind this weedy holiday and how it became the international date and time for pot smokers to turn on and get high.
Several rumors have surfaced over the years about 420. One of the rumors is that 420 was police code for someone smoking marijuana. Another rumor claims it is some sort of pot smoker's hail to Adolf Hitler. Or somehow it has something to do with the awful tragedy at Columbine High school.
All though, colorful those rumors remain just that. The real history of 420 dates back to 1971 and a group of five San Rafael high school students who called themselves the “Waldos.”
The Waldos, who got their name by virtue of their chosen hang-out spot, a wall outside the school originally called it “420Louis” because they would set out to find abandoned pot plants in the area then meet back at the designated Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School at 4:20 p.m. Multiple failed attempts to find abandoned crop eventually shortened the phrase to "4:20", which ultimately evolved into a codeword the teens used to mean pot-smoking.
As the years rolled on, the Waldos, who had access to the Grateful Dead, would often tour with the band and as a result shared their code with their musician friends.
As the Grateful Dead toured the globe through the '70s and '80s, playing hundreds of shows a year - the term spread through the Dead underground.
However, it was Hightimes Creative Director Steven Hager and his article about the Waldos in 1998 that gave 420 its prominence among pot smokers around the world.
In Hager’s article, "Are You Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?" (October 1998), Hager wrote, 4:20 p.m. is a socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis. "I believe 420 is a ritualization of cannabis use that holds deep meaning for our subculture.
"It also points us in a direction for the responsible use of cannabis." Hager wrote.
The Waldos never envisioned that pot smokers the world over would celebrate April 20th as a result of their futile hunt for crops. The day has become something of a national holiday in the face of official condemnation.
The code often creeps into popular culture and mainstream settings. All the clocks in Pulp Fiction, for instance, are set to 4:20. In 2003, when the California legislature codified the medical marijuana law voters had approved. The bill was named SB420.