How 420 became Weed Day

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Most of us know that 4:20 is the time to smoke weed. Some of us also know that the 20th of April is celebrated as International Cannabis Day every year. But, do you know why and how 420 became weed day? Well, in this article, we are going to explore the multi-layered story behind this link. There are some old tales that describe why this particular day and time became so iconic for pot smokers worldwide. So, without any further ado, let’s begin with the most credible narrative.


Chris Conrad was the curator of Oakland’s Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum. He states that 420 was initiated by a group of high schoolers, known as the Waldos, in the 1970s. They were the students of Marin County’s San Rafael High School. They would often meet near a statue of Louis Pasteur (the scientist who invented pasteurization) to smoke up sharp at 4.20 in the evening. Now, you must be wondering what is the reason behind this action. Well, it was a time when their school used to get over and their parents weren’t home yet. So, it was a time of unsupervised freedom for them. And the time 4.20 soon became a secret code for all of the Waldos, who used to call marijuana by this code while conversing among themselves when their parents were around.

Later, the members of the Grateful Dead spread the code 420 all over California and beyond. Some of their fans also distributed flyers in 1990 inviting all people to smoke weed or 420 on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. Right after it in 1991, a High Times Magazine reporter named Steeve Bloom again printed flyers on the same. This is how cannabis became associated with 420 and the code spread all over the world gradually. Again, an outlet from 1998 in the USA made the Waldos the inventors of 420. And the purpose of 420 became to gather all the marijuana lovers worldwide on 20th April at 4.20 to smoke up. This day became the unofficial stoner holiday globally.

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According to some believers, the famous song Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 by Bob Dylan has a link with 420. Many of us have heard the lyric “Everybody must get stoned” but how’s this song associated with this secret code? Well, just look at the numbers of the song title. Now, multiply 12 by 35. You get 420! Though it might seem quite significant, Dylan has never confirmed this link himself. It’s just a magical discovery by some unknown listeners and weed lovers.


There are believers assuming 420 must be a code of the California Police about drug possession. While actually, the California Penal Code was about public land obstruction and not drug possession, there was confusion because the 420 code was used in the California bill about the medical marijuana program of 2004. This bill approved the possession and consumption of marijuana only for medical purposes. From a certain source, it was clear that code 420 was used in that bill because of marijuana’s link with the pop culture term and not for addressing the bill number.


From all the above stories, it’s clear that the Waldos legend is the most popular and authentic one. However, there’s no clear evidence till now which can prove the other tales wrong and that’s why we thought of telling you all of them. There’s been a huge ongoing debate on which story is the most credible among weed lovers worldwide. While some people believe in the second and third stories, a majority of cannabis lovers swear by the first one. Hence, all you can do is make your own perception and believe whichever story seems the most appealing to you. If the stories of the 420 code have excited you and you call yourself a cannabis lover, it’s a time for celebration for sure.

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Comments (1)

I read in Salman Rushdie’s book that the number 420 has historically been associated with trickery.

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