The History of 4/20

Posted on April 19th, 2022 to Education by

April 19, 2022

Written by Allison Lotzkar


What is 4/20? The Holiday Explained:

420. Even if you’ve never smoked cannabis, you know the association. The last 50 years, marijuana advocates have used the numbers as a code of sorts. You’ve seen it with a smirk and a head-nod towards the door when the clock strikes twenty past four. You’ve heard the class clown shout:“420 TOKE UP!” (and if that was you shouting it— don’t worry. We’re not judging.)

So, we all know it, but how did it start? Where did it come from and how did it become globally associated with weed? The most plausible explanation floating around MY high school was that it was Bob Marley’s birthday. I’ll save you the Google search— he was born on February 6th. Having been today years old when I discovered that was NOT the reason for the holiday, I turned to the internet for some answers.

4/20 Myths Debunked

  1. Myth: 420 is the police radio code. FALSE. While this would be a plausible origin story, it is sadly not true. In Massachusetts, most cops use “94-C” when referencing illegal drugs, which is a reference to section 94-c of the law

  2. Myth: It is Bob’s Marley Birthday/Anniversary of his Death. FALSE. Although Reggae legend Bob Marley was a very public supporter and consumer of cannabis, this is not where the association started. He was born on February 6th, 1945 and passed at the young age of 31, on May 11th, 1981.

  3. Myth: There Are 420 Compounds in a Marijuana Plant. Maybe. According to The National Library of Medicine, “Cannabis is a complex plant with over 400 chemical entities.” Other sources cite the plant as having closer to 500. While this seems the most likely of theories, given a plant could possibly have 420 compounds, there is another theory that is probably the least known in pop-culture, but most likely the true origin story of our favorite green holiday.

The Waldos History of 4/20

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The true story? It sounds like the plot of a stoner movie. In the 1970’s, a group of friends, who called themselves “The Waldos” were handed a map to an abandoned patch of marijuana. Determined to find the loot, the five friends met each day at 4:20 pm, at a statue of French Chemist, Louis Pasteur, and from there would set off on their treasure hunt. Each day, they would remind each other “4:20 Louis!”, which eventually became shortened to simply: “4:20” While the young men never found this hidden weed patch, what they didn’t know is that they would set off a cultural movement that would become exclusively associated with the consumption of marijuana, even 50 years later. When member of The Waldos, Dave Reddix, landed a gig on the road with the band Grateful Dead, the phrase was introduced to the public at large. The rest is history. The Waldo brothers are still friends today, supporting each other through all of life’s big milestones. And while 420 will always be about enjoying cannabis in all of its forms, in an interview last year, the group told High Times that “420 is mostly about friendship, family, solidarity and love.”

However you celebrate, we hope you do so safely. PAG will be busy behind the scenes supporting all of your favorite businesses and ensuring your favorite products are in stock when and where you need them. Want to learn more about the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts? Click the button at the bottom of this page to read about the rapidly changing industry in MA and where PAG fits in.

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