It’s here, the Big Day. 4/20! The “weed number.” Just what caused this association? Well, take a rip on your vape, sit back, and enjoy the tale as we look at the hazy history and celebrate 50 years of 4/20!
Urban legends about the origin of the whole 4/20 number have circulated for decades, and in the time before the internet you had to go off whatever your friend’s cousin’s older brother said. After all, who else were you going to ask? According to the 1998 book Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana by Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, it dates back to 1971 when a group of California high schoolers would scour an area in search of a hidden cannabis plant!
The year was 1971. San Rafael, California, a city on the San Pablo Bay, just a short trek north across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The protagonists of our tale? The Waldos – a group of teenagers who took their nickname from a wall they liked to hang at. They had heard rumors of a lost treasure: someone in the Coast Guard had cultivated a plot of marijauna and left it unattended. Whether there was a map with an X or an eyepatch and cutlass remains to be seen – but here was treasure for a group of high school marijuana enthusiasts!
The plan was hatched! They’d meet by the statue of Louis Pasteur (a French scientist recognized for his efforts in fermentation, pasteurization, and vaccination (thanks Wikipedia!)) after school and sports at 4:20. From there they’d hunt down this hidden, secret weed plot. How did they communicate the plan to each other throughout the day?
At the appointed time, they group would together, smoke, and set off on an adventure to find lost green treasure. Over time it got shortened, as all language does to just 420.
But how did the term spread from a tight-knit group in San Rafael to the rest of the world? In comes a little band called The Grateful Dead.
According to the Waldos, they were friends with The Dead in the ‘70s, when the band was practicing in San Rafael. As anybody might guess, they hung around, smoked with the band a few times and the slang spread – no doubt as a Waldo regaled The Grateful Dead with a tale of lost treasure! From there it likely spread like all good slang – via word of mouth!
While there have been plenty of theories posited, including hidden numbers in Bob Dylan songs, police codes for marijuana, or, in a strange bit of Godwin’s Law, somehow related to Hitler (his birthday being 4/20) – the most compelling, and evidence backed theory remains the Waldos of San Rafael! They have flags with the number embroidered and mail dated to the ‘70s using the slang.
And as for those Waldos and the hidden weed? They never did find it, but they somehow put something much larger into the world – 4/20! Now, 50 years later, the number has served as a code phrase in times when marijuana was illegal, and as legalization spreads across the country it is becoming a number to rally around and celebrate!
With that we’ve answered the biggest question about 420 there is. Let’s answer some a couple more while we’re here!
What does ‘420 friendly’ mean?
Anyone who has looked for a place with potential roommates has probably come across this phrase. Or even on dating apps! ‘420 friendly’ means that the person or place in question is ok with marijuana use.
What is the significance of 420?
Interesting question! When you boil it down to it, there really isn’t any! Just a group thing that has grown to encompass more. There’s no sinister (or sacred) secret behind the numbers. Just the time good friends would meet to get together and have fun. Suppose that’s the significance now, good times, good vibes.
If you’re a fan of the green stuff, and your state has legalized it (like Arizona this year!) be on the lookout for deals, giveaways, and other goodies this 4/20! Whether you smoke flower, enjoy a vape, or prefer to eat edibles, there’ll be something for you to celebrate with!