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  • Jordan T. Smith

Three Facts About the Origins of 420

One of the core foundations of cannabis culture is the annual holiday that falls on the 20th of April. There are a variety of myths regarding the origins of the holidays that have become accepted as facts. Those myths range from 420 being the police code for “marijuana in progress” to there being 420 active chemicals in marijuana. It's likely to come as a surprise to all cannabis connoisseurs everywhere that many of the myths regarding the origins of the hazy holiday are false. Continue reading below for facts behind the true origins of 420.

A Group of High Schoolers From California Coined the Phrase in the Early 70s

To some people, it may be easier to believe myths regarding the origins of 420 than the true origins behind it. It was essentially just a group of teenagers who coined the phrase that eventually evolved into a global counterculture holiday. It all started back in 1971 in San Rafael, California with a group of friends who named themselves the Waldos based on their favorite hangout spot, a wall behind their school. They began to set out to find the cannabis crop of a service member no longer capable of tending to it.

Having only a map with directions to the crop in hand, the Waldos who were student-athletes made an agreement to meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur near their school after practice at 4:20 pm to find it. What originally began as “4:20-Louis”, eventually became just 4:20 when they would see each other in the halls at school to remind each other of their secret plans. Even though their quest to find the abandoned cannabis crop was a bust, they stumbled upon something better - a phrase that would last the test of time for cannabis consumers everywhere.

The Grateful Dead Is Part of the Reason Why the Phrase Grew to Global Prominence

The cannabis catch phrase coined by the Waldo’s wouldn’t have been able to gain the popularity it did without help from some friends. Those friends just so happened to be the members of popular rock band, The Grateful Dead. One member of the Waldos had a father who managed the Grateful Dead’s real estate and another was close friends with the group’s bassist, Phil Lesh. He also managed a sideband for the Grateful Dead called Too Loose to Truck and The Sea Stones.

One of the members of the Waldos told the Huffington Post that the phrase spread throughout the community of Grateful Dead fans because there were references to 420 whenever someone consumed cannabis backstage. In fact, the first time the phrase was heard by an editor at High Times was at a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland, California. At the time, High Times was essentially a go-to source for all things related to cannabis culture.

The Term 420 Didn’t Attain Global Prominence Until the Early 1990s

Even though the Grateful Dead had been using the term 420 to reference cannabis for decades, it wasn’t until a concert held during Christmas week of 1990 that it began to take off. It happened because of a flyer that circulated among Grateful Dead fans that served as an open invitation to partake in cannabis. Along with the invitation to “meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing,” it contained the now-debunked myth about the origins of 420. The widely-circulated flyer begins stating that, “four-twenty started in San Rafael, CA in the late 70s. It started as the police code for Marijuana Smoking in Progress.”

What makes matters more ironic is the fact that the author who published the flyer in the High Times never bothered to look up the police code in California to corroborate what they printed. They happened to clear the matter up after a member of the Waldos reached out to the publication in the year 1997. At that point the Waldos had begun hearing it in the most unexpected places, even seeing it etched into park benches and painted on signs. High Times even purchased the domain for by then. While the Waldos take pride in their role in their creation of 420, they don’t consume cannabis like they used to.

The Only Way to Legally Observe 420 in Ohio Is With a Medical Marijuana Card

Even though the stigma of cannabis consumption has begun to dissipate over the course of the past decade, purchasing and consuming it in Ohio is still illegal without a medical marijuana card. Obtaining a medical marijuana card is easier than you think, and it comes with a variety of benefits. Ohioans interested in obtaining a medical marijuana card can schedule an appointment with a medical marijuana physician who can get you approved for one today. Doing so will provide you with access to a variety of quality, safe cannabis products that could drastically boost your quality of life.


Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.

Here at Ohio Marijuana Card, our goal is to help everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

If you have any questions, call us at (866) 457-5559, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

Check out Ohio Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in Ohio.


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