What is 420?

Happy 420! You all know the term, but do you also know where it comes from? Time for a little history lesson!

There’s a lot of confusion about how the term 420 originated. Let’s take a look at some of the fake stories first. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the real one soon enough!

Funny but untrue

One of the most common misconceptions is that it’s the police code for marijuana. It’s actually the code for murder in some states! 420 is also not the birthday (or date of death) of Bob Marley, not the number of chemical compounds in cannabis, and not the best day of the year to plant your cannabis plants.

One farfetched story states that Bob Dylan’s 1966 Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35, in which he famously states that “everybody must get stoned” is the origin of the term. After all, 12 times 35 equals 420! Creative, but unfortunately not true. And lastly, one of our favourites: 4:20 PM is teatime in the Netherlands. As a Dutch company, you can trust us when we tell you there’s definitely no such thing!

The real story

The real story of how the term 420 began is that of a treasure hunt. In 1971 in San Rafael, California, five high schoolers calling themselves the Waldos set out to find a fabled unattended guerrilla grow. Each day, they would meet at 4:20 PM under a statue of Louis Pasteur. 4:20 Louis soon became their code word for the treasure hunt. “Louis” eventually got dropped (and the guerrilla grow was never found), but the catchphrase 420 stuck around and quickly became a term to describe all things weed-related.

One of the Waldos eventually ended up as a roadie for the Grateful Dead, the pot-friendly jamrockers. The band’s fans quickly picked up on the term, spreading it across the globe. Then, in 1991, High Times magazine started coining the term. Within a couple of years, they had helped spread the phrase worldwide, creating a catchphrase for marijuana users everywhere.

A global phenomenon

Slowly, the catchphrase also found its way into pop culture. This is why, for instance, most clocks in Pulp Fiction (and all Lost in Translation) are set to 4:20 and why the scoreboard in Fast Times at Ridgemont High reads 42-0. There’s also a Family Guy episode called 420, in which the characters attempt to legalize marijuana. Speaking of legalization:, the bill to legalize marijuana in California was called Bill 420. And finally, in the most 420 thing to ever happen, Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson recorded a song in Amsterdam on 4/20/2009. The title? Roll me up and smoke me (When I’m gone).

Please always obey your local laws and regulations. We do not endorse illegal activities.

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