The History Behind the 420 Culture

When I first began my cannabis journey, I clearly remember coming across the number 420. From hearing the popular phrase “420 blaze it” to seeing a multitude of 420 related posts on Instagram, my curiosity for this number was officially sparked (pun slightly intended). Diving deep into cannabis-related articles, I found that this number did not officially originate from police officers using it as a code for “marijuana smoking in progress”. Rather, it all started with a validated, credible story of an average group of high school kids known as The Waldo’s.

Marin County, California is the home to San Rafael High School where, in 1971, a group of five kids created the code 420. It started as a joke to signify the after-school time of where they would all meet to enjoy a puff of the plant, and continue their search for a mysterious, hidden patch where cannabis was said to be growing. Even though they never found what they were looking for, their 4:20 meet-up time stuck and eventually became slang for smoking marijuana. But the term didn’t really start to gain popularity until one of the Waldo’s, Dave Reddix, was introduced to Phil Lesh. As the bassist for The Grateful Dead adopted The Waldo’s use of “420”, the term really started to take off with the help of dedicated Deadheads in 1990.

This group of Grateful Dead fans created a flyer that birthed the idea of having a collective group of people smoke “420” on April 20th at 4:20pm. Making its way around the community, the Deadhead’s flyer made its way to High Times magazine reporter, Steve Bloom. By the following year in 1991, this cannabis-related magazine printed out the flyer which set off the worldwide use of “420”. It became not only the universal code for cannabis, but it also created the reputation as the annual gathering of pot smokers, and now serving as the Black Friday of cannabis led by legal cannabis brands and dispensaries.