The History of 4/20 

When we hear about 4/20-, we know that it’s weed day. It’s seen as a festival, with even stadiums and other locations celebrating the freeing of cannabis and the extent of this. It’s considered an unofficial holiday in the world of cannabis, and some people do celebrate it the moment the clock strikes. What’s the history though? What’s the background behind this? Here, you’ll learn about the myths that have started to circulate, and also find out the history of where 4/20 came from. 

The Myths 

One of the most popular beliefs is that 4/20 is based off the police code for the term marijuana in the state of California. Others say that it’s the penal code that’s used for that, but it’s not totally correct. 

This is actually not true. Another one is because it’s basically a reference to the composition that marijuana has, with 420 being the chemicals that were found in this. It may make sense until you discover that it has more than 500. So not true. Another one is that it came from the bob Dylan song that’s called Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35. However, this doesn’t give you 420, as those numbers don’t add up, since the line in it possibly alluded to it.  

While Dylan may be a reference to this, it was never the true reason, and there’s no evidence from the songwriter that the meaning behind that was to multiply the numbers.  You’re also not going to get this if you add them, but if you multiply them. So where did it come from if Dylan isn’t the reason for this? Read on to find out. 

The Real Origins of This 

The main story that’s the most credible comes from five students in high school who would meet near the statue of Louis Pasteur in order to partake in marijuana. This was always done at 4:20 because it was after school. There was no significance. This is something that started out as a ritual, which they would use “420” to reference this. 

It actually was validated in the High Times magazine in 1998. But how did five students in high school do this? Well, those five students were actually pretty influential. Two of them were directly connected to the Grateful Dead, a popular band. Mark Gravitch’s dad managed the real estate for them. Dave Reddix the other boy who was mentioned in the group actually had a brother who was pretty close to Phil Lesh, the bassist. When they hung out, they would text the phrase 420 to reference that there was marijuana. 

This was used in a lot of the inner circles throughout the 70s and 80s when referencing marijuana, and it wsa pretty insider as well. 

When December 1990 hit, the Grateful Dead fans in Oakland accidentally popularized this. They encouraged people to try it while at the concert, and they did have flyers that would invite people to light up on April 20th at 4:20 pm.  This is where the 420 events first started, and it also was when the first exposure to this. 

The flyer was also officially printed from the High Times magazine all the way in 1991. 

These days, nobody doesn’t need to hear 420 in the code since it’s so popular these days. But the symbolism of this is definitely more connected and communal, and it’s a good part of the culture of cannabis. 

Almost every city in the US partakes in some kind of event on the day, so it’s not just something that’s good for history, it’s good for culture too. 


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