The 420 Story: How April 20 Became a Weed Holiday

The origin and meaning behind 420 has been debated over a doob for decades. So how did 420 come about? Is it simple slang or is it something far deeper or even insidious? If you guessed slang, you’d be right. While there are lots of different stories ranging from police and penal codes for marijauna offences to Bob Dylan songs or even Hitler’s birthday, the history of 420 is pretty far out!

It was 1971 - while the Swinging 60s were winding down, Watergate was ramping up and the Vietnam War raged on. The 420 story began with a few teenagers who didn’t want parents or teachers to know what they were talking about, so naturally, they created a code word only they would understand. (TXT speak, anyone? LOL) 

The original meaning behind 420 lies with five independent young friends who didn’t fit in with the jocks or social cliques at their San Rafael, California high school. As one of the originators told TIME magazine in 2017, “We got tired of the Friday-night football scene with all of the jocks. We were the guys sitting under the stands smoking a doobie, wondering what we were doing there.”

Quite simply, 4:20 was the time the boys would meet each day after school to slip off to smoke the forbidden weed together, laugh, talk, and ponder the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Note that this phrase was later immortalized in the late author Douglas Adams’ famous series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Spoiler alert: the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything is 42. Oh! Now it’s all starting to make sense, right?)

Back to the 420 story - each day, the flower-loving five would meet at 4:20 by the wall outside their school near the campus’ statue of chemist Louis Pasteur to smoke a joint together. They hung out by the wall so often, the group was dubbed the Waldos. Eventually, 420 became their word to getaway to smoke together and have adventures, which they called ‘safaris’.

The meaning behind 420 would likely have stayed more of an inside joke between the Waldos, however, one of them went on to work as a roadie for bassist Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, who also began using the term. From there it was picked up by members of the band and their faithful band of followers and fellow lovers of the flower power, The Deadheads. It was only a matter of time before High Times heard about 420 and began using the term, thus launching its place in cannabis culture, language, and history -- eventually rising to April 20th gaining cult holiday status for cannabis lovers worldwide. Happy 420, adult cannabis lovers everywhere (and if you’re not yet in the know, just wait until you learn about 710)!

Want another toke, uh, take on the history of 420? Take three if you like! Here’s a fun slideshow from CNN debunking all the rumors about the meaning behind 420. The History Channel even gets into the 420 story here, but High Times’ ‘animated’ history of 420 is a giggle fest, so it’s the perfect ironic ending to this 420 story.

And don’t forget - The Flower Shop has many ways you can celebrate 420 with friends from traditional prerolls to yummy edibles, so stop by soon. There’s even an app for ordering online from your smartphone, so take a browse and see how far weed has come since 1971’s Waldos first discovered the magic of 420.



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