A Brief History Of 420 - Where It Came From

By Justin Landers
Ever wonder why 420 is 420? Here’s a brief history of where it came from — and no, it has nothing to do with any famous birthdays.

It’s time for “that” holiday again! You know the one. The day where you go to a concert, forget about your problems, burn down the worries, and relax the night away.

April 20.

In cannabis culture, 4/20 is considered a holiday. To marijuana consumers, the day is similar in effect to drinkers that enjoy the revelry on St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. Dispensaries in legal states offer discounts. Artists schedule special concerts. Comedians schedule special stand up sets. Protests and rallies are held in states that are still holding out for the title of “last to legalize.”

But … why?

There are so many stories around the start of cannabis celebrations happening on April 20th, or whenever the clock hits 4:20 each day. Some believe 420 is the radio code for marijuana for police. The number of chemical compounds found in cannabis? Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Cheech, Chong or Willie Nelson’s birthday? The temperature cannabis burns?

No. No. No. And no again.

None of these are the reason April 20th is considered the party day for cannabis consumers.

The most commonly accepted start of 4/20 or 4:20 is actually because of some high schoolers. The code 4:20 was used because that's what time kids in Marin County California, who went by the name "the Waldos," would get together to consume cannabis in 1970.

The Waldos had a few connections to The Grateful Dead, who ended up picking up the code and using it to reference any time they wanted to smoke. High Times printed a poster years later explaining where the reference to cannabis started, and it became the day to hold a rally in protest of anti-cannabis laws.

As more and more states legalize cannabis this day of protest and rallies — many held at city and state capitals — has begun to turn into a day of celebration. Instead of protests, there are parties. Police often overlook public consumption for the day, and concerts and festivals are held in public areas.

There you have it, a brief history of 420. And, yes, the date being Adolf Hitler’s birthday is merely a coincidence — an unfortunate one it should go without saying.

So, again, the date is not some big scientific connection to the amount of chemicals or temperature or anything crazy. It’s just some kids from back in the 70s trying cannabis, and knowing the right people for it to become a cultural phenomenon.

And should you choose to celebrate 420 — whether on April 20 or at 4:20 on any given day — please remember to consume responsibly!

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