This is where the term 420 actually comes from

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Daily Hive Staff Apr 20, 2017 10:53 am 10,830

Sure, you know 420.

But do you like, know it, maaaaan!?

Okay, all jokes aside, there are a lot of people across Canada who will be lighting up today in honour of all things marijuana without ever actually knowing why they’re doing so on April 20.

So we’re here to give you a little hit of history. Read on to learn about the origins of 420 and how it came to be the universal day (and time) of choice to smoke the reefer.

Red herrings

First things first, 420 is not called so because it had anything to do with police code for catching someone with weed. Anyone who tells you that doesn’t have the 411, friend.

Also, the number is not derived from Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (12 x 35 = 420). That’s just a really cool coincidence that can mess with you after a few bowls.

The Pioneers Stoners

The birth of 420 is now generally attributed to a group of high school students in San Rafael, California in the 1970s. The group of five friends, who called themselves the Waldos, had allegedly heard about an abandoned government crop of cannabis they were intent on finding for themselves (they even had a ‘treasure map’ to help find it). They would go looking for it after school and sports activities, meeting to get high beforehand in front of a Louis Pasteur statue a 4:20 pm. (Originally the slang for meeting was Louis: 4:20, but was shortened to simply 4:20.)

The definition

So, in the beginning, 420 was simply a time for some high school kids to meet. It was not a call to action to get high, rather a synonym for doing so. 4:20, and then 420, quickly became shorthand for weed in any and every form.

The Grateful Dead

Yes, rock’s most famous stoners are said to have played a part in the spreading of the term. Members of the Waldos were said to often hang out with The Grateful Dead, who were from nearby in California, at shows and the slang the high schoolers used for marijuana quickly caught on. The term spread through the fanbase and into other bands the Waldos were hanging out with (most notably Too Loose To Truck and the Sea Stones, of which David Crosby was a member). From there, it wasn’t too long until term took off around the country.

Next steps

The government of Canada has released its official pot plan and the timeline in place still suggests July 1, 2018. So who knows, it’s entirely possible that one 420 in the near future, we could all be enjoying a national holiday.

Here’s to smoking hoping.

See also

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Daily Hive Staff
Launched on July 1, 2016, Daily Hive is the evolution of Vancity Buzz and is now in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

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