The Origins of 420
It’s almost that time of year again. Spring starts springing, the birds are chirping. That can mean only one thing, 420 is almost upon us! The “high holiday”. There is a lot of speculation around the origins of 420. Some believe its the penal code for marijuana use in California. While others believe it’s the number of individual chemical compounds in cannabis. The list goes on and on. According to Snopes these have nothing to do with the true origins of 420.
[The 420] origins appear to lie in the escapades of a group of friends from San Rafael high school, northern California, in 1971. That autumn, the five teenagers came into possession of a hand-drawn map supposedly locating a marijuana crop at Point Reyes, north-west of San Francisco.
The friends — who called themselves the Waldos because they used to hang out by a wall — met after school, at 4:20 pm, and drove off on their treasure hunt. They never found the plot. “We were smoking a lot of weed at the time,” says Dave Reddix or Waldo Dave, now a filmmaker. “Half the fun was just going looking for it.” The group began using the term 420. So did friends and acquaintances, who included — at a couple of steps removed — members of the Grateful Dead rock band. The term spread among the band’s fans, known as Deadheads.
Then in 1990 Steve Bloom, an editor at High Times, saw 420 explained on a Grateful Dead concert flyer. Staff on the magazine, long the leading publication on marijuana, started using it.
The truth of the origins of 420 are even cooler then any of the supposed explanations. Treasure map? A hidden marijuana crop? The Grateful Dead? It’s like The Goonies but you know, way more mellow. It truly is amazing that a couple of high school kids from California came up with the universal term for cannabis use. Whats even more amazing is that it spread way before the Internet and social media existed.
So there you have it. Happy 420.
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