The use of the term "420" to refer to marijuana use or cannabis culture has been around since the 70s and has woven itself subtly into general pop culture...
- The score of the football in Fast Times at Ridgemont High was 42-0.
- Most of the clocks in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20.
- Online dating sites and roommate ads will often pronounce that they are "420 friendly" to indicate that they like to light up
- The state of California's bill regarding medical marijuana is called Senate Bill 420.
But where does the term come from?
Popular myths (all untrue) contend that 420 is the police code for a cop spotting miscreants smoking herb, or that April 20 is the day Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison died (incorrect it was September 18 and July 3 respectively), or that there are 420 active ingredients in marijuana (actually there are 315 chemical compounds).
The Real Story
But the truth is that the term originated as you would expect - from a bunch of stoners who decided to meet a specified time after school to light up. The group, known as the "Waldos" (because they liked to sit on a wall and watch people go by), attended San Rafael High School in California in 1971. They met each day at a statue of Louis Pasteur at exactly 4:20 p.m. to fire up a joint. Over time "420" became their code word for their happy time and all that went with it. They found they could talk about it in front of their parents by using the term 420 and the old man would be none the wiser. The term leaked into popular culture when the Waldos attended Grateful Dead concerts and shared their lingo with other Deadheads.
So here's to you Mr. Sitting on a Wall with a Silly Grin Laughing at All the Squares Bustling Through Their Tormented Lives! This bud's for you!
Happy 420 Day Everyone!
Here's some of the t-shirts most often seen at the University of Colorado 420 Festival...