The History of 420

There are certain behaviors in life that we adopt without necessarily thinking about them. 

Often, we learn these customs from our family, friends, or community and adopt them because they seamlessly ingrain into our value systems and ways of life.

This natural inclination to embrace traditions and customs is not limited to our personal lives. It extends to the public holidays we celebrate, each with its own unique rituals. 

Take, for instance, Halloween. 

When we’re younger, our elders, parents, guardians, etc., tell us to dress in crazy or scary costumes and roam the neighborhood for sweet treats. We don’t ask questions—we follow the candy, and when the time comes, we instill the same values into the next generation.

We can always learn more about these customs if we choose. Conversely, we could adhere without thinking beyond the communal buzz and the good times. That’s the beauty of them.

In the cannabis culture, our tradition—our ‘holiday,’ of sorts—is 420.

The beauty of 420 is much the same as that of other holidays. You can join in for the ride and have an absolute blast without digging deeper, or you can explore the more profound meanings of a day so synonymous with cannabis culture.

By probing into the story behind 420, cannabis enthusiasts can engage further with the culture and its meaningful roots, offering a more enriched, eye-opening experience.

Read on as we explore the story and meanings of 420, helping you further appreciate the number, day, and time of day we cannabis lovers call our own.

What Is 420?

The question of “what is 420?” is much like one of our terpene-rich, THC-infused pre-rolls—a loaded one.

420 is many things to many people. To some, it’s a mantra to indicate solidarity with all participants in cannabis culture. To others, the hallowed number reflects either a time of day or a date on the calendar, both associated with when cannabis lovers indulge in their famous plant.

In a sense, 4:20 p.m. is like tea time for adult-use recreational cannabis lovers (as long as it’s feasible to partake in a session without risking one’s job).

When 4:20 strikes on a weekend or day off, it’s time to turn on your favorite Mary Jane-inspired playlist on Spotify or fire up your favorite film on whatever streaming service has it. Then, all that’s required is to let the good times roll, whether alone or with your best pals.

There’s also April 20th, 4/20—the unofficial cannabis holiday. 

On this particular day, all cannabis lovers unite and rejoice. Many take vacation days off work to attend movies, concerts, festivals, and restaurants or get together with their social circle at someone’s home, where they’ll inevitably partake in some reefer-induced fun. 

What’s The History Of 420? And What Does 420 Mean?

Like many instances in American History, there are several versions of the truth regarding 420’s origins. 

Some link 420’s beginnings to Bob Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35’ with its “Everybody must get stoned” hook. (Multiply 12 times 35, and you get 420.) Others believe 420 was a marijuana possession policy code.

However, the accepted story behind 420 has its roots in the 1970s at San Rafael High School, where a small collective of bell-bottomed rapscallions called “the Waldos” planted the seeds.

The California Marin County Waldos began using “420” when a group member’s brother was growing cannabis in the woods in close-by Point Reyes and had fears of getting caught. He drew the crew a map, giving the high schoolers the go-ahead to harvest the crop.

Funnily enough, this patch on the map became something of a Moby Dick for the group. They searched for it but never found it. However, it was a uniting force during the fall of 1971. After classes and football practice ended each day, the Waldos would gather by the school’s Louis Pasteur statue and smoke a joint before embarking on their fruitless expeditions.

What was the time of these hangout and burn-down sessions? 

You guessed it: 4:20 p.m. 

As high schoolers are wont to do, the Waldos adopted 420 into their language. At first, it was “420 Louie,” but they soon filtered it down to “420,” its basest elements.  

The Waldos ran wild with 420, saving artifacts like postmarked letters from the 1970s with ample 420 references. They’ve kept these artifacts in a bank vault—and the Oxford Dictionary cited these documents as the earliest uses of 420 when it added the term in 2017.

How Did 420 Become So Iconic?

A brother of a Waldo was close friends with Phil Lesh, the bassist of the Grateful Dead. Thus, the Waldos became entrenched in the band’s social circle, introducing the Dead to 420, who adopted it as their own.

A couple of decades later, in the 90s, a reporter for High Times Magazine named Steve Bloom received a flier to convene at 4:20 p.m. on April 20th for 420-ing at the Bolinas Ridge sunset. The magazine published the flier, further bolstering its impact on the zeitgeist.

Fast-forward to today, and 420 is a total phenomenon. People who barely engage with cannabis culture know of 420 and its connotations.

Nevertheless, people have yet to learn how 420 became so iconic. It seems the instances we’ve discussed might explain some of it, but the sheer magnitude of the number remains a mystery—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing; some mystery adds to the magic.

How Can You Celebrate 4/20?

Since 420 is an unwritten holiday, the world is your oyster in how you wish to enjoy it. Nothing is defined or etched in stone. 

We can tell you that you likely won’t have too hard of a time finding activities revolving around cannabis culture. The cannabis communities in all areas with legalized adult recreational usage continue to grow and thrive and will likely have an event cooking up.

Alternatively, hanging out with close friends and spending quality time together with cannabis as a uniting force is one of the best ways to celebrate 420. 

Even though it might not be April 20th for another long while, it’s 4:20 p.m. every day, so don’t let the date on the calendar prevent you from celebrating.

And why not celebrate with Stash Dispensaries? Our menu of top-tier cannabis products will elevate your 420 experience.

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