420 Myths, Facts, and Legends

by Shanti
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Did someone say it’s 4:19? Then it’s almost time for marijuana therapy for cannabis enthusiasts out there. If you’ve never heard of 420 or you don’t know exactly what the time refers to let me explain.

The 420 references have been a code term for marijuana time since the days of tie-dye, bell-bottoms, and hippie funk. Perhaps even longer according to some myths, legends, and facts.

This secret code for marijuana lovers could even have a history dating back to the pre-prohibition era of the 1920s. But the term became useful during prohibition.

The 1970s was a time when notable hippies like Joan Baez and the Grateful Dead were passing the peace pipe around the circle.

In fact, many give the credit to a group of high school students.

The Waldos

On the Point Reyes Peninsula in California, a group of five high-school students made a pact. They would meet at 4:20 PM on April 20 to treasure hunt. The treasure was weed. One in the group, called the Waldos, had been given a map by a friend. That friend’s brother happened to be a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and grew pot in his free time. The time for harvesting the crop had come. But as a member of the coast guard, he was concerned. If anyone discovered he’d grown illegal pot he’d be discharged from service. So he gave the map to his brother who’d passed the treasure onto one of the Waldos.

The Time and Place

The fool-hardy school boys thought nothing of it and they set a time to meet after school for the treasure hunt. The place they were to meet was the statue of chemist Louis Pasteur on their high school campus, San Rafael High. The day would be April 20, 1971. And the time was 420.

On that magical day, the boys went to school. As they passed each other in the halls they’d say a reminder only they would understand. . .“420 Louis.” Thereafter when they wanted to meet to smoke weed they’d use their code for the time and the place.

At first, it was their little secret. But as time went by more people joined the after-school charade and the term 420 went viral. It became code for teenagers and free-spirited adults for the golden hour of cannabis. Then in 1990 the band known as the Grateful Dead joined in.

The Dead on 420

One of the Waldos was a huge fan of The Grateful Dead. As a “Deadhead” he traveled to every Dead concert. Steve Bloom, a reporter for the High Times Magazine, was in the parking lot full of hippies at the concert when someone handed him a yellow flyer.  It read, “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” The flyer also contained misinformation that 420 was a police code for marijuana smoking in progress. Bloom published the flyer and the term was forever etched in marijuana history.

It’s not that 4.20 never came up before the Waldos’ treasure hunt. H.P. Lovecraft, the prolific horror writer of the 1920’s America used the term in his story, “In the Walls of Eryx.” The story followed a space traveler on his explorations of a surreal planet with a hazy atmosphere. Lovecraft has always been ahead of his time.

The Bone-Chilling Facts

4/20 is the birthday of the infamous Adolf Hitler and some other supervillains and heroes. 420 is everywhere in the world of marijuana. Hotels often skip the number to avoid marijuana-related activity or sign stealing.

The city of Denver, Colorado refused to post a highway sign for mile marker 420. They didn’t want to keep on replacing it. Instead, they posted a sign for mile marker 419.99. Marijuana users aren’t thieves, they’re just excited about the time.

The 420 Stories

There are many stories about the 420 code word for marijuana time. I heard yet another wild story while researching. A young entrepreneur made a connection to buy a large quantity of weed. This purchase was not of the legal variety. Scared to pick it up himself he sent his girlfriend to pick up the weed he’d purchased. He gave specific instructions to mark the boxes H2O. But his girlfriend wasn’t a very good writer nor was she very perceptive. Her penmanship made H20 look like 420. When the boxes reached the destination and the contents were discovered 420 became synonymous with Bob Marley’s favorite herb.

It’s an example of how much fun marijuana smokers can have telling stories about their favorite time.

Look at the time

Really, 420 is about marijuana time. It’s about having freedom, friendship, and camaraderie. It’s about coming together to share ideas, laughter, fun, and of course marijuana if you choose. And greatest of all it’s about peace, love and good times.

During COVID-19 lockdowns, 420 celebrations may not be as rampant as in other years. Still, there are places where community matters. Where you can connect with like-minded people to learn and grow this 420.

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