Today is 4/20, also known as the high holy day of the cannabis calendar. In any normal year we’d see weed parties and backyard smokeouts aplenty, mixed in with peaceful protests from groups seeking to legalize marijuana in their state or nation. We’re speaking anecdotally here, but we’d say today is one of the more well-known “holidays” of the year. Give someone in your life this pop quiz: what’s the date of Arbor Day? They’ll have no idea. Then ask “when’s weed day?” – they’ll know it’s 4/20.
But why is 4/20? Heady question, bro. You’ve probably heard the rumors that seem plausible enough to be fact: 420 is several states’ penal code for marijuana possession, the cops say ‘420’ to radio in a cannabis bust in progress, Hitler is involved for some reason, and the list gets progressively more ridiculous from there.
However these fun myths came to be, they don’t stem from the real origin story (nor are they even true: if you hear a cop say 420 into his walkie-talkie…it means nothing). Nope, the actual genesis of 420 involves several cannabis cliches all magically working together to bring about a legend: the San Francisco Bay Area, high school kids up to no good, and the Grateful Dead.
In the early 1970s, a group of five friends in San Rafael who called themselves the Waldos because, get this, they hung out near a wall, decided to go on a little treasure hunt for a cannabis crop they saw on a map. They would meet up after school at 4:20pm, consume some of their own product, then head out on their quest. And while their search proved futile, the 420 code became synonymous among the Waldos with a gathering of good friends and good weed.
So how did it make it out of that small social circle and into the global lexicon? Well, one of the Waldos spent some time as a roadie with the Grateful Dead, and the term started slowly spreading amongst the group’s cult-like following. Fast forward all the way to 1990, when a fan-made flyer was passed around at a Dead show in Oakland decreeing 4:20 as the official time to take a toke. That flyer had the incorrect story of the police code on it – such is how rumors get distorted over the years – but it was eye-catching enough to be written about in High Times magazine, thus spreading the myth and the number worldwide.
The Waldos have certainly done their due diligence over the years trying to recapture their rightful claim to the 420 throne, but at this point the term is bigger than any one group. In fact, several pieces of marijuana-legalization legislation have been given the number 420 in honor of the term’s significance to the cannabis community.
However you choose to celebrate this year, and whichever 420 story you connect with, we hope you’re staying safe, staying chill, and staying at home. If you’re coming out to see us in Sun City or Tempe, know that we’re taking every precaution to keep you safe.