Over the last few decades, the number “420” has become synonymous with cannabis. The rise of 420 has occurred alongside the increased relevance and acceptance of marijuana within society. Today, embracing 420 and cannabis culture is no longer seen as taboo for many. Even non-users have come to recognize the association between the two. 420 has become so ingrained within the culture that the date of April 20th has been deemed “National Weed Day,” a testament to how much progress that society has made on its views on cannabis. But what exactly is the origin of 420 and where did it come from? From rumors that it originates from the police dispatch code for cannabis to some thinking that it was popularized by the film Pulp Fiction, there’s been a fair share of false origin stories for 420. Here’s how the number “420” and the holiday actually came to be.
While there are many theories about the origins of “420,” a commonly accepted story involves high school students in San Rafael, California, in the 1970s. The group of friends, who called themselves the Waldos, used “420” as a code and signal to meet after school at the time of 4:20 p.m. The friends would meet up to search for a large cannabis crop that was rumored to be in the area. Although they never found the infamous crop of woodland weed, their use of “420” evolved into a code for cannabis. Such a code was necessary because society back in the 1970s generally did not look favorably upon anything marijuana-related.
The code “420” was able to go beyond the friend group and became culturally relevant because of the efforts of the Grateful Dead band. The friend group had connections with the band which was how the code made its way to the musicians. The band embraced the connection between “420” and marijuana and spread it as they traveled throughout the country. There even existed a flyer from the Grateful Dead that explained the code and its meaning, which was later published by the High Times magazine for wider audiences to read about. It was the time when “420” began having a life of its own as more began to embrace the moniker.
As the years had gone by, there had been a wider cultural acceptance of cannabis and those who use it. More and more states had begun to loosen their previously stringent laws relating to marijuana. This evolving social view of cannabis and the increased relevance of “420” had led to the date of April 20th to be deemed “National Weed Day,” a day devoted in honor of marijuana.
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