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The weed language is full of exciting slang terms and fancy buzzwords. Sometimes, even the most seasoned aficionados find it difficult to maneuver in this abundance of vocabulary.

Nevertheless, there are some deeply rooted terms in our community, such as the 420 number, for example. It’s close to impossible to find a person who wouldn’t have heard the meaning of 420, which is actually the official weed celebration date — April 20th.

But what does 420 mean exactly?

Where did 420 come from?

There are many rumors surrounding this term. Some people argue that it’s the number of active compounds in cannabis. 

Others consider 420 a weed equivalent of teatime in the Netherlands.  

We’ve also heard stories that 420 is part of Bob Dylan’s “Everybody Must Get Stoned” chorus from his song “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35.” 

12 x 35 = 420, sounds legit, huh?

But in fact the 420 term has a much simpler background. It was first used in the fall of 1971 by a group of five California students — the Waldos.

Where did the 420 Term Come from?

Whether you write it as a time of day (4:20), a numeral (420), or a calendar date (4/20), the four-twenty number (not four hundred and twenty) is a slang term indicating that it’s time to enjoy cannabis.

April 20 is actually considered the international “Cannabis Appreciation Day” or “Weed Day” when all weed aficionados across the world celebrate their freedom of smoke and light up for the legalization movement.

Where did the 420 Term Come from

All self-respecting weed consumers have smoked at 4:20 at least a few times in their lives. After reading this article, you’ll have a decent understanding of how the 420 emerged in the first place.

420 Came from the Waldos

The Waldos was a group of high-schoolers who learned of a Coasting Guard member who grew some weed and could no longer cultivate it — it was the fall of 1971.

The Waldos had a treasure map that supposedly held the abandoned crop. They would meet by the statue of Louis Pasteur near their school at least once a week to search for their holy grail.

At this point, it’s not difficult to guess that the guys would meet at 4:20, right after their PE classes. The Waldos would jump into a car, hotbox inside, and wander around Point Reyes for the legendary free pot.

In an interview with Huffington Post, one of the original members of the Waldos said, “We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis, and we eventually dropped the Louis.”

Although they efforts have ultimately gone down the drain, it resulted in creating one of the world’s most iconic weed slang words ever.

But how did a group of high school students managed to make their secret smoking code popular across the world?

The Grateful Dead

The Waldos had many connections with the Grateful Dead. Their family members were responsible for managing the Dead’s real estate and maintained good relations with Dead bassist Phil Lesh.

Later in the interview, Capper (one of the Waldos) told Huffington Post, “here was a place called Winterland, and we’d always be backstage running around or on stage and, of course, we’re using those phrases. When somebody passes a joint or something, ‘Hey, 420.’ So it started spreading through that community.”

In 1990, Steven Bloom, former high times reporter, heard about 420 for the first time during Christmas week at one of the Grateful Dead gigs in Oakland, California.

The Waldos vs the Bebes

Bloom suddenly entered a crowd of hippies that would hand flyers to other hippies saying “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” Bloom took that not and took it to High Times, where the team immediately hopped on the story, spreading the buzzword locally.

The Waldos vs. the Bebes

2012 was a controversial year for the 420 term, when a pro-cannabis website, 420 Magazine, released an interview with a man from a group that called themselves The Bebes. According to the man’s testimonial, he was the one who came up with 420. He also accused the Waldos of self-promoting themselves on his back.

Rob Griffin , 420 Magazine’s editor in chief, did a thorough research and found out that Bebe had, indeed, invented that slang term, but the Waldos had a much greater influence on its popularity.

Huffington Post, on the other hand, didn’t find any hard evidence that would prove The Bebe’s claim. At the same time, the Waldos were going up and beyond to provide their links to 420 in the media.

What the 420 Term DOESN’T Mean

Stories like that often have their own urban myths created by gossipers. The 420 story is no different. Here’s what people commonly confuse the 420 term with:

  • The death of Bob Marley: 420 definitely isn’t the date of Bob Marley’s death. The reggae legend actually died due to melanoma on May 11, 1981.
  • The number of all compounds found in cannabis: We don’t know precisely how many compounds are inside the cannabis plant, but scientists have identified 483 compounds so far, not 420.
  • The name of cannabis legalization bill pending in Congress: There’s no such bill under the 420 number. As of this writing, the possession of THC-rich cannabis (marijuana) remains a federal offense.

What the 420 Term DOESN’T Mean

The 420 number refers only to the act of smoking. It’s also the International Cannabis Day, so if you find yourself on April 20th without a jay — and you’re a dedicated cannabis consumer — it’s time to refill your supplies and act. And, if someone says it’s 4:20, this might not be the literal 4:20 PM, but it probably means that they are about to enjoy cannabis. 

Did you know where 420 came from? How do you celebrate 4/20 or 4:20 PM?


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