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The Real Story Behind 4:20 - Smokin Js

The Real Story Behind 4:20

Over the years, many theories have come up. Some people will tell you that it’s the police code for ‘marijuana smoking in progress’, which as logical as it seems, is false. Some people believe that it stands for the number of active chemicals in marijuana. There are actually “over 400″ active chemicals in marijuana, but that’s still not it. Tea time in Holland? Nah, that happens between 3 and 4 PM, but if we want to start referring to smoke seshs as tea time, I’m all for it. 4/20 is not the birthday or death date of Bob Marley, who was born on February 6th, 1945 and passed on May 11th, 1981 and may his soul Rest In Peace. And although 4/20 is Hitler’s birthday, I assure you that is NOT what we are celebrating about. It’s like the song that never ends. People started saying it, not knowing what it was, and we will continue saying it forever just because. Stoners near and far, use it as a code word, a reason to celebrate, and a reason to light up mid afternoon. But where did it originate? What does it really mean? Why 420?

The true story is that 420 was a code used among members of the Waldos, a group of five San Rafael high school students during the 70’s. They had got word of an unattended crop nearby and decided they would set out after practice, at 4:20, to try to get their hands on some of this kind bud. They continued to search for it week after week, and would use 420 as a secret way to refer to their after school special meet up and over time it became their way of basically saying “let’s smoke”.


During this time, the Grateful dead and hippie scene had relocated to Marin County. The Waldos had many personal connections to the Dead and basically had open access to all of the parties. The phrase 420 began to spread through this community, and when they started touring the world they took it along with them. At one of the Dead shows in 1991, flyers were passed around that read “meet at Bolinas Ridge on 4/20 at 4:20 for 420-ing” which drew the attention of a lot of people, and helped bring the term to mainstream culture. And the rest is history. 

In case you were wondering, the Waldos never did find the crop, but instead unintentionally created a tradition, a holiday, and a way for people to discretely discuss herb. Marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado has opened the door for many legitimate 420 events, but even the law won’t stop most people on this special day. So on 4/20 at 4:20, wherever you may be, grab a bud and light up cause it is time to be 420-ing!

Here is a more in depth article.

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