April 20th, aka 420, aka National “Smoke Weed Every Day” Day, gives stoners everywhere reason to celebrate. Even if you don’t enjoy partaking in puff-puff-pass, you’re probably aware of the unofficial holiday commemorating weed. Why celebrate it on April 20th, though? It turns out, the actual 420 meaning is way cooler than its rumored genesis.
First, let’s take a look at the incorrect origin stories for 420. We have to clean out the proverbial pipe of incorrect history before taking a hit of truth, if you will. Many people believe that 420 was California’s police code for illegal marijuana use, which CNN proved false by revealing that California’s 420 code actually indicates obstruction of a public land’s entrance. Another popular theory about the 420 meaning is that it comes from Bob Dylan’s, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” If you multiply 12 by 35, you get 420. That plus the song’s line “Everybody must get stoned” led people to believe that 420 came from Dylan, but CNN also debunked that myth.
The actual reason why people smoke a lot of weed on April 20th can be traced back to 1971 in Marin County, California. Mother Jones, Time, CNN, and Vice all agree that the 420 meaning came from a group of high schoolers called the Waldos.
Apparently, the five teens used to meet at 4:20 to toke up and search for secret cannabis plants.
It’s all pretty normal NorCal teen stuff, really.
Actually, wait. Meeting near a wall to toke up after school, maybe — but secret cannabis plants?
The Waldos heard that someone from the Coast Guard had to give up a plot of marijuana located near Point Reyes National Seashore.
According to the History Channel, the Waldos even had a treasure map to help guide them to the abandoned cannabis. Um, why hasn’t Judd Apatow adapted this story into a movie?
Even though the Waldos never found the presumably dried-up marijuana plant, they continued using the code “420” whenever they discussed their drug use.
Don’t worry, the story’s not over yet. In fact, it gets even better.
One of the Waldos’ older brothers was a friend of the Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh.
Lesh got word of the Waldos’ code for the popular seven-leaved plant, and he spread it around the world while touring with the Dead. According to Mother Jones, Deadheads took to the code, and they passed out flyers urging everyone to “smoke pot hardcore” at 4:20 p.m.
Mother Jones also reported that during December 1990, a flyer circulating around at a Grateful Dead concert instated April 20th as a holiday. The flyer, which The Huffington Post published, said,
There you have it, the meaning of 420. Happy day of ganja celebration!