The Origins of 420: Where It Came From and Why We Still Say It

420 is just a number to some, but for almost anybody who has ever enjoyed a bit of cannabis, 420 is a whole lot more. While you might hear regular marijuana users talk about this number, and maybe even you and your buddies use the term, chances are you don’t really know exactly where it came from.
The fact is that very few people do know why 420 is a number that’s made it into the vernacular of everyone from young adults to seniors in their 60s and 70s! Keep reading to learn more about the origins of this unique term that pervades popular culture. The story of how 420 came to be is actually very interesting.

The San Rafael Legend

When it comes to how everyone started saying that simple phrase, you have to go quite a long way back in time to 1971 at San Rafael High School, in San Rafael, California. There, a group of kids who referred themselves as “Waldos,” laid out a plan that involved plenty of marijuana.
While the kids were using illegally – and they claim it was a regular habit for them – the plan didn’t really have that much to do with getting high. Instead, they decided to meet at 4:20pm – right around the time they would all be done with school for the day – to go on what seems like a pretty insane adventure.
Believing they had found a hand-drawn map leading them to a marijuana crop at Point Reyes, just outside of San Francisco, the teens set out to find it. Presumably, they planned on harvesting enough to get them through the rest of the year, but the teens, now adults, don’t really talk about that part too much.
The Waldos from San Rafael High School never found the crop. Unsurprisingly, they might have smoked a little bit of marijuana before setting out on this adventure. In fact, according to one member, they were so high they probably couldn’t have found the nearest pizza joint.
As far as they know, they never came close to finding the marijuana they were looking for at Point Reyes. Most of them believe there was never a crop to find to begin with. It might sound crazy, but it seems like the term that everybody uses these days actually came from a bunch of hair-brained high school kids.
If you’re wondering how it spread, it might be important to note that some friends of the Waldos would eventually go on to play in The Grateful Dead, a band synonymous with marijuana use. It’s commonly believed the term became popular when the Dead started using it through the years since they have much more reach than the teens from San Rafael High School.

False Myths

The San Rafael Waldos story is the one that checks out, and with The Grateful Dead connection, the reason why the term spread is pretty clear. That doesn’t stop people from making up a whole bunch of other reasons why people say it. None of them are true, but they’re pretty entertaining anyway.
One of the best false claims is that people say it because there are 420 compounds in marijuana. According to High Times Magazine, that number is actually 315.
A lot of people also say that the number has something to do with law enforcement. Usually, you’ll hear this rumor related to big cities like Los Angeles and New York – places where some assume drug use just runs rampant and everybody walking down the street is high.
In fact, section 420 of the California penal code is related to obstructing land that’s designed for public use – like if a barricade was placed by a business in front of a public park. Some people also say it’s the code for public marijuana use in New York City, but that’s simply not the case. It doesn’t seem like those numbers are related to drug use anywhere outside of popular culture.
However, the bill that passed legal medical marijuana use was given those numbers. Certainly seems like an inside joke to us, right?

What Does It Mean Today?

Today, when you hear somebody throw out those ubiquitous three numbers, chances are they’re saying it’s time to light a joint or use marijuana in some other way. While many people may tend to do this when the clock strikes 4:20, a lot of people simply use it as code or familiar phrasing when they’re ready to smoke or otherwise consume marijuana products.

Chronic Therapy

Visit Chronic Therapy to learn more about the origins of 420 and to pick up all your 420 supplies. From sativas and indicas, to wax and shatter, we can take care of all of your 420 needs!

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