The History Behind 420

in cannabis •  last year

Millions of people celebrate 420 around the world by engaging in civil disobedience and consuming cannabis that is still prohibited in most places. But where did the 420 celebration come from in the first place? Many people probably don't know the history behind it.

A group of 5 high school students, who referred to themselves as the Waldos, many years ago decided to all meet at the Louis Pasteur statue (seen above) that was located on the grounds of San Rafael High School at exactly 4:20 pm. When they met-up, they started smoking cannabis and then went on a road trip looking for some free weed.

This became a regular occurrence, with them perpetually meeting up at the same place at the same time—4:20pm.

Other folks in the neighborhood started to adopt the catchphrase and it wasn't long before many others started also using the term when referring to smoking some green. They would also start to see 420 written on walls and carved on benches, it started to really evolve into something much bigger than the one group's original meet-up.

One of the individuals has a brother who was friends with Phil Lesh, the bass player of Grateful Dead and that is said to be the avenue for how the 420 term went about entering the mainstream and becoming a part of pop culture.

It's reported that the group, Grateful Dead, on occasion would hand out a flyer to the crowd gathering before their concert and it had read that they planned to meet up “at 4:20, on 4:20, for 420-ing.” On the back of that flyer it had also reaffirmed the history of 420 in stating that it originated somewhere in San Rafael, California.

But there are other theories as to the origins of the 420 celebration too, some say it has something to do with Bob Marley, or that it possibly relates to the number of chemicals in the plant, others say it stems from police code and how they would talk about smokers or smoking in progress.

There are many varieties of how the 420 occasion came to be, with so many people around the world knowing what it means and taking part in it.

It's amazing to think about how something that could've started with just a small group of friends after school in California, grew to now being something that is known around the world and has been celebrated for many decades.

banner thanks to @son-of-satire

Flickr Creative Commons


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Interesting read I had never heard of it

Good post on the history. I always think they should do a movie on the 'history of 420' . UV/RS/ & Followed happy 4/20 to you! :)

Good post! Thank. Ukraine celebrates with all...

We write a petition to the President on legalization

And the press noticed and supported this trend !!!
Ja accompanies the brave
have a nice day

Gov doesn't like civil disobedience, no wonder it's legalized in many jurisdictions now.

I am glad you posted this because I had no idea and had been a little puzzled by some of the posts celebrating it!

It's rather odd that in spite of seeing The Grateful Dead 20 times throughout the 80's (among other things of that nature), I never heard of the term 420 until last year when a co-worker asked me if I was 420 friendly. Of course, I needed to tell him that although I am not 420 hostile, I stopped smoking 20 years ago.


bet it was a good show!


They all were! I wrote a post on here about my first show called, Sometimes The Lights Are Shining On Me.


Not to rain on this parade (It's THE BAH, that should mean: stop reading now)
But have you looked into the research that Ian Irving has done on the grateful dead being a counterculture phenomenon co-opted by the cia?
And on a related note Terrance Mckenna was also involved/working for the same people..


I don't know about the CIA, but Al Gore was at the June 20th, 1992 show at RFK. So was I. It was great. The Steve Miller Band opened up for them, then Steve came out at the end of the show to join the Dead for One More Saturday Night.


O yeah the great "we are melting away into the sun" al gore.

If you get a chance I'd say check it out.


I looked at some of it. Honestly, it's way too long for me to go through thoroughly considering that I haven't been part of the Dead scene for over 20 years. Besides, it's a moot point as to who created LSD since I don't do it.

I think I've known about this for about as long as I've been smoking, was always fascinated with this plant since I first experienced it.

A friend of mine in South Africa told me about it. His version of the origins is that it was the perfect time to smoke weed, after work, sunset, end of the day... almost believed for a while that it was the perfect time to smoke, but then I realized that every time is the perfect time ;)


very interesting!:)

Finally someone explained the general hysteria on the subject 420. The fact that in our country and in Russia 4/20 associated with other events.
A few crazies have created in various social networks closed group "Wake me up at 4/20", where with the help of different psychological techniques they predispose teenagers to harm themselves, undermine their psyche and leads to suicide. It's all shot on video, streaming live on the Internet and is becoming a serious national problem.
So being in the post-Soviet countries be careful with the phrase 4/20, you may be misunderstood.