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The history of 420

Get ready to join the ultimate smoke sesh, because we're about to dive deep into the hilarious and high-larious history of 420 - the beloved holiday that's made stoners, hippies, and Snoop Dogg fans alike feel like kids on Christmas morning (if Santa only delivered bongs and edibles, that is).
The history of 420

Get ready to light up your knowledge with the history of 420, the mysterious number that’s become the unofficial code for all things cannabis. You may have heard rumors that it’s a police code for catching stoners red-handed, or maybe it’s the number of chemical compounds in the magical plant itself. But the truth is even more surprising than you might think.

So grab your rolling papers and get comfy, because we’re about to take a deep dive into the history of 420 and discover the truth behind the legend.

What is the origin of the term 420?

As the legend goes, the term 420 can be traced back to a group of high school students in California in the early 1970s. These students, who called themselves “the Waldos,” were a tight-knit group of friends who loved nothing more than getting stoned together. And as luck would have it, they had a very fortuitous class schedule – they all had a free period at 4:20 PM.

So, like any good stoner teens, the Waldos decided to make the most of their free time and started meeting up at 4:20 PM to smoke weed together. They would pile into one of their cars (a beat-up old Chevy Impala, if the rumors are to be believed), roll a few joints, get high and generally enjoy each other’s company. And to keep their smoking sessions secret from their parents and teachers, they started using the code “420” to refer to their little get-togethers.

Over time, the term “420” spread from the Waldos to their wider social circle and eventually beyond. It became a kind of secret handshake among stoners, a way of identifying yourself as part of the counter-cultural community. And as marijuana has become more and more mainstream in recent years, the term 420 has only grown in popularity.

Common myths surrounding 420

Here are some humorous myths that people have come up with surrounding the origin and meaning of the term “420”.

420 is a secret code invented by aliens

Some people believe that 420 was actually given to us by extraterrestrial beings who have a fondness for the herb. According to this theory, aliens have been monitoring our planet for centuries and decided to gift us with the code “420” as a way of saying “hey, we like what you’re smoking.”

420 is the number of chemical compounds in marijuana

If you’re a fan of math and science, you might appreciate this myth. Some people claim that 420 is the exact number of chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant. And while that might sound like a neat coincidence, it’s actually not true – there are way more than 420 compounds in cannabis.

420 is the birthdate of a famous pothead

There are plenty of famous folks out there who have been known to enjoy a little cannabis from time to time, but that doesn’t mean they all share the same birthday. Despite what some people might tell you, 420 is not the birthdate of Bob Marley, Willie Nelson, or any other celebrity pothead.

420 is the number of minutes you should wait between hits

If you’re worried about overdoing it with the weed, some people suggest waiting exactly 420 minutes between hits to keep yourself in check. Of course, this is completely arbitrary and not based on any scientific evidence whatsoever.

There is a myth that connects the number 420 to Hitler, but it’s not related to the origin of the term 420 itself. Some people believe that April 20th (4/20 in the American date format) is Hitler’s birthday and that the term 420 is a reference to this fact. However, there is no evidence to support this claim, and it’s likely just a coincidence.

Common myths surrounding 420

420 in politics and policy

In some states in the United States where cannabis has been legalized, April 20th (4/20) has become a day of celebration for cannabis enthusiasts. Activists and advocates also use the day as an opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of cannabis and to push for further legalization and decriminalization.

In the realm of policy, there have been several bills and initiatives that reference the number 420. For example, in 2019, a bill called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress. The bill aimed to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level and included several provisions related to social justice and equity. One interesting feature of the bill was that it was introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 420 – a reference to the number’s significance in cannabis culture.

Another example of the political significance of 420 is the fact that several states and cities have chosen to legalize cannabis on April 20th. In 2018, for instance, Vermont became the ninth state in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis, and the law took effect on July 1st of that year.

420 in Canada

In Canada, April 20th (4/20) is also a day of celebration for cannabis enthusiasts and advocates. However, in the context of Canadian politics and policy, the number 420 has additional significance.

For instance, in 2017, the Canadian government introduced Bill C-45, also known as the Cannabis Act. The bill aimed to legalize and regulate cannabis on a federal level, and it received royal assent on June 21, 2018. The bill was introduced in the House of Commons on April 13th, which is just a week before 4/20. It has had an obvious and notable impact on the economy.

Moreover, in 2020, the Canadian government announced its intention to provide pardons for individuals with criminal records for simple cannabis possession. The initiative was part of the government’s efforts to address the harms of cannabis criminalization and to promote equity in the legal cannabis industry. Interestingly, the announcement was made on August 19th, which is exactly 420 days after the Cannabis Act came into effect.

420 in pop culture

When it comes to pop culture, 420 is basically the cannabis equivalent of the Kardashians – everywhere you look, there it is. This number has infiltrated music, movies, TV, fashion, and even the internet, to the point where it’s practically a household name (at least in some households).

For starters, 420 has inspired a whole bunch of songs across a variety of genres, from Cypress Hill’s “Hits From the Bong” to Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (which, let’s be honest, is really just an excuse to sing “Everybody must get stoned” over and over again). It’s also made cameos in movies like “Half Baked” and TV shows like “The Simpsons” and “South Park” – because nothing says “stoner humor” like a bunch of animated characters giggling at a clock that reads 4:20.

But 420 isn’t just for entertainment – it’s also a fashion statement. Whether you’re into t-shirts, hats, or other accessories, you can find plenty of options that proudly display the number. Just be careful not to wear your 420 gear to a job interview or anything…unless, of course, you’re applying to be a budtender.

And let’s not forget about the internet, where 420 has become a staple hashtag on social media platforms. From Instagram to Twitter, you can find plenty of memes and other content related to the number. Just be warned: once you start down the 420 rabbit hole on the internet, it can be tough to come back out.

All in all, 420 has become a cultural icon, a symbol of all things cannabis and counterculture. So the next time you find yourself reaching for the bong at 4:20, remember: you’re not just getting high, you’re participating in a proud tradition of stoner culture. And that’s something to be celebrated (as long as you don’t have to take a drug test anytime soon).

Is 420 still celebrated today?

You bet your sweet bong it is! It’s like Christmas for cannabis enthusiasts, except instead of jolly old Saint Nick, you’ve got Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg as your pot-loving ambassadors. And let’s face it, they’re probably more fun at a party anyway.

Every year on April 20th, the world comes together to celebrate 420 Day with a variety of festivities. You’ve got your classic smoke seshes, of course, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are cannabis-themed concerts, art shows, and even 420-themed yoga classes (although, let’s be real, the only position you’re likely to hold is “sitting on the couch”).

But the celebration doesn’t stop at just one day. Oh no, my friend. Many cannabis enthusiasts celebrate every 20th day of the month (because who needs an excuse to get high more than once a year?), and some even set alarms for 4:20am and 4:20pm every day. It’s like a daily reminder to take a break and enjoy the finer things in life – like, you know, Cheez-Its and “The Office” reruns.

Now, you might be thinking, “But what about the pandemic? Hasn’t that ruined all the 420 fun?” Well, sure, in-person celebrations might be a little more limited these days. But that hasn’t stopped people from finding creative ways to keep the party going, whether it’s through virtual smoke seshes, socially distanced picnics, or just really intense rounds of “Among Us” with your weed-loving friends.

Written by
A cannabis enthusiast, writer, and dab diva who is dedicated to helping you understand the constantly evolving world of recreational cannabis.

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