At 4:20 pm on April 20, millions of people around the world light up in celebration of the national pot-smoking holiday. But the reason why is often clouded in smoke. NewsFeed is here to clear the air.
In today’s culture, the term “420” is synonymous with smoking the illegal (in most places) substance, or at least declaring one’s preference for the plant. However, the origins of the 420 trend seems to have vaporized over time, fading from the minds of the smokers who made it part of their subculture the first place.
Cannabis connoisseurs and, of course, the media have many theories on how the 420 movement started, but don’t be fooled. Many are no more than myths.
(More on TIME.com: See photos of stoner cinema)
For instance, 420 is not the penal code for marijuana use in the state of California — that actually refers to obstructing entry on public land. Nor is it a police radio code for weed smoking; it’s actually not the radio code for anything. Furthermore, there are not 420 chemical compounds in marijuana (there are 315) and April 20th is not the best time to plant marijuana. You can successfully plant the substance at any time — not that we condone it.
The real history of 420 can actually be traced to San Rafael, California, in 1971, when a group of five friends who who dubbed themselves “the Waldos” would meet every day at 4:20 pm to smoke pot and search for marijuana plants that were rumored to be abandoned near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station.
(More on TIME.com: See photos of cannabis culture)
Of course, no such marijuana plants existed, but it did give the friends an excuse to meet up every day after their respective sports practices — yes, stoners can also be athletes — to partake in some, ahem, leisure activities.
According to High Times magazine’s former editor Steven Hager, who first published an article on the Waldos in 1998, the popularity of 420 grew so quickly because of San Rafael’s proximity to the Grateful Dead’s hub. And the fact that the Waldos had access to Dead parties and rehearsals didn’t hurt, either.
(More on TIME.com: See photos of the great American pot smoke-out)
In fact, according to a Huffington Post article, the brother of one of the Waldos was friends with Dead bassist Phil Lesh. And once the term had infiltrated the band, it wasn’t long until it spread to its groupies and beyond, thus cementing 420 as a part of cannabis culture.
Today, April 20 is celebrated around the world with massive gatherings to peacefully smoke and petition for further legalization of the drug, which is still criminalized by federal law. From Boulder, Colo., to San Francisco, Calif., and Ontario, Canada to Auckland, New Zealand, millions of pot-loving citizens will unite for one simple purpose: to get high.
As for the Waldos, all five are successful professionals and still keep in touch. Although they admit to all but giving up the habit that brought them together in the first place. (via Huffington Post)