History of 420 big old-fashioned clock

The History of 420: Where Did it Come From?

What is the history behind 420? Whenever you hear someone mention “420”, you automatically associate the number with April 20th and cannabis. But where did the reference start and why is it associated with marijuana? Cannabis has been around for centuries, but associating the number “420” with cannabis has only surfaced in recent decades.

A Group of Students Called The Waldos

According to Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s book, “Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana,” the association of marijuana and 420 began with a group of high school students in California. The students called themselves the Waldos and used the number “420 Louis” to represent a statue of Louis Pasteur where they would meet to smoke marijuana at 4:20 pm. It was also rumored there was a secret garden of marijuana near the area of the statue, but this proved to be false.

The Grateful Dead Popularize 420

An ironic coincidence landed one of the Waldos’ brothers as a roadie for the band The Grateful Dead. The connection with the band led to a group of fans (or “Deadheads“) making a flyer advertising people smoke “420” on April 20th, at 4:20 pm. Among those who attended the meetup was Steve Bloom, who in 1990, was news editor for High Times Magazine. The reference stuck and the group of students known as the Waldos was finally recognized as the originators of the now famous number.

History of 420 with a flyer of the first gathering of "420"
Image courtesy of urbnleaf.com

Other Theories Involving the History of 420

There have been other stories revolving around where the connection between 420 and cannabis came from.

  • A popular connection to 420 is that police use the number to identify when people are smoking marijuana; this has been officially proven.
  • April 20th also falls on Adolf Hitler‘s birthday but again, this is just seen as a mere coincidence.
  • Folk pioneer Bob Dylan has been cited as an influence on 420 from his song, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” because 12 multiplied by 35 is 420.
  • Many believe the number 420 has to do with chemical compounds in marijuana but this has also not been scientifically proven.

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