For years, people have speculated about the true meaning of 420. Some popular myths about the origins of 420 include that it is the police code for marijuana, it is Bob Marley birthday, it is the legislation code for pot laws, it’s the number of chemical compounds found in weed, or it has some connection to Adolf Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1889.
So where did it come from
In the early 1970s, five San Rafael High School friends in California collectively called the Waldos decided to meet at 4:20 to search for a secret stash of pot at an old statue of a chemist, Louis Pasteur. The Waldos continued to meet at 4:20 to find the secret stash, but were unsuccessful. The group continued to use 420 as code for pot-related activities. This helped the Waldos keep their smoking habits under the radar of teachers and parents.
How did 420 get famous?
The term started to gain traction when the Waldos got to know a very popular band called the Grateful Dead. They made this connection because one of the fathers of the Waldos was handling the band’s real estate. The older brother of one of the Waldos became friends with the Grateful Dead’s bassist Phil Lesh. The Waldos think it’s likely that they used the code around the band, who then may have spread it across the country while on tour.
In 1990, Steven Bloom, a reporter for High Times magazine received a flyer while walking into a Grateful Dead concert. The flyer detailed the story of 420. Bloom helped bring the term to the attention of High Times editor Steven Hager, who told the reporter to publish the flyer, which he did in 1991. High Times eventually got in touch with the Waldos and published the group’s story in the magazine in 1998.
Thanks to the Grateful Dead and High Times, 420 is one of the most popular known phrases today.